Salespeople get a bad rap. The whole snake-oil salesman connotation has never fully been dropped, even though in our consumer-driven society, salespeople play a very crucial role. And while there may still be some unsavory characters out there trying to peddle what they can, when you find a good salesperson – not only do they make the buying process easier, but you want to buy off them again – and again, and again!
So what makes a good salesperson? A good salesperson seeks to understand why people buy. They provide a service and build relationships. A good salesperson becomes a trusted resource – your first point of call when you need something else.
A tale of two pitches
Contrast these two different situations;
I want to buy a stereo. I walk into one store and am confronted by a man who asks me if he can help. “I'm looking to buy a stereo” I say. “Well then! You should definitely buy this system here! It's got massive sub-woofers and a 500 Watt amp so it can really pump up loud. It's got a 10 CD changer, which of course you'll need. And have you considered home theater? We've got plasma screens on special right now, and I could do you a deal on both.”
This guy isn't going to be making his commission today.
I walk into the second store, and am approached by a woman who asks me if she can help. “I'm looking to buy a stereo,” I say again. “Ok then, well first of all, tell me what kind of music you listen to most? Jazz and blues? Ok. Now do you have CD's, records or digital music? Is space an issue? What's your price range?” After answering her questions she points me in the direction of a small system in the corner of the store. “I think this one would suit you; the speakers are really high quality so they're great for getting all the nuances of your jazz. It has a jack here so you can plug your iPod straight in, and it's pretty compact. It's at the top end of your price range though - we do have other options, but you won't get quite as high fidelity in the high-frequencies that I always find important with jazz music. What do you think?”
Do you see the difference? One tried to push a product on me, while the other tried to understand my needs by asking me questions. Not only would I buy the stereo of the second salesperson, but a few months later when I want to buy a TV, where do you think I'm going to go to first?
Now obviously this isn't a perfect analogy when it comes to affiliate marketing. Affiliate sites tend to be more one-way promotion than a conversation (although not always- blogs comments work well). But this doesn't mean that you can't seek to understand your customer. What are their concerns; their motivations; their restrictions? While everyone who comes to your site will be different, they will all share a set of common traits if they have all been searching for something that has led them to your site.
Features are irrelevant
My sales professor always said “People don't buy features, they buy benefits!” What does that mean? It means you're not buying an iPod because of its dimensions, hard-drive space or screen size. You're buying the convenience of having your music in something portable – you're buying the ability to have a range of music to suit your mood wherever you are and you're buying the enjoyment that comes from watching your favorite movies anywhere without getting sore eyes. And in the case of the iPod, you're buying the acceptance that comes from having a popular fashion accessory. Benefits, not features.
So what benefits are in the product you are selling? And how can you write your sales copy to focus on how these benefits relate to the specific kind of person that will buy your product.
Stop trying to make everyone like you!
If you try to appeal to everyone, you'll appeal to no-one. Unless you have some unbelievable product that absolutely everyone must have (an affiliate program for oxygen would be nice), there is only a small group of people who will have any interest in your site, so they should be the only ones that matter. If you're selling weight loss products to women, don't put up pictures of buff guys. If you're selling hair-loss treatment to middle-aged men, don't make your site pink! Target specifically – don't worry if you alienate other people (though try not to offend!). If your target market likes your site, you will do better than if it just generally appeals to everyone. If you genuinely have a product that appeals to widely differing, incompatible groups, you might want to consider making two sites, each specifically targeted at one segment.
How to find out exactly what your market wants
Forums are hands down the best online way to find out what the concerns of your market are. Forums are where the prematurely bald speak out about their darkest fears. Forums are where you’ll find out what people trying to lose weight really care about. The great thing about forums is that you can sign up, post replies and ask questions. You can directly interact with your audience and step inside their shoes. Another great way is to encourage feedback through your site. Encourage people to comment on your blog posts - strike up debate and discussion. The information you unearth will provide you valuable insights into your customers behaviour. The power of such insider information to a salesperson is immense, and these days it’s easier than ever to find out exactly who your sales copy should be talking to.
Now this piece is just my opinion, and you may disagree – if so, please post a comment. Some of you might be having a lot of success doing things differently. But in my experience, the very best salespeople, companies and entrepreneurs are the ones who follow the approach of understanding their customer – is affiliate marketing any different?