Hey Google, can you tell me how voice search is killing my SEO?

Who would have thought a 6″x 4″ speaker would change your life? Whether it’s Google Home or Alexa – sidenote, at 70%, Alexa currently dominates the US speaker market – smart speakers are moving into homes and businesses at a rapid pace. According to research from NPR and Edison Research, 1 in 6 Americans owns a smart speaker. That’s a 128% increase from a year ago.

Combine smarts speakers with mobile voice technology – your old friends, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and voice search have become a dominating force for marketers and SEO.  In 2016, 1 in 5 mobile searches were conducted via voice search. (Mary Meeker, 2017 Internet Trends Report)  Currently, there are over one billion voice searches per month. (Alpine.AI)  And, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, according to comscore.

“Of all the disruptions that are taking place in all the things technology is bringing into our space, voice is among the most disruptive,” said Graeme Pitkethly, the chief financial officer of Unilever PLC.

Voice search has two major effects on brands:

#1 – How You Say It

Bottom line, you say it differently than you would type it. On your desktop or mobile, you might type “Store hours for Starbucks” or “Store Hours for Starbucks near me”. But, with voice, the user isn’t inhibited by having to type each word. They may say “Hey Google, what are the store hours for the Starbucks on Beltline and Knapp?” or something more conversational, such as, “Hey Google, how late is Starbucks open?”

#2 – The Algorithms

“When it comes to voice search you go first position or you go home because beyond the first or second place there is no future,” Sebastien Szczepaniak, former Amazon executive who now heads e-commerce for Nestle SA.

Consumers get one to two options when using voice. When a consumer doesn’t specify a brand, Alexa, for example, uses the “Amazon’s Choice’ algorithm which implies a well-rated, well-priced item that ships with Prime. If the consumer has purchased before, Amazon will usually select the brand previously purchased. Like most algorithms, Amazon won’t disclose exactly how it all works. Google Home works using apps or their own Google Express. If a consumer doesn’t specify shopping within a specific app, Google will select one of their current stores based on your location and delivery day.

At this time, brands cannot pay to be served up first.

In conclusion…

The consumer impact for voice search can be felt right now as users are already using voice to look for new restaurants or call up a 24-hour locksmith. But, it won’t be long before B2B organizations begin to feel it just as strongly.  Smart speakers will be in the workplace.

“Hey Google, can you send me a list of the top rated architects in Michigan.” or “Hey Google, please call a local paper shredding service.” and “Alexa, I need a supplier for commercial cleaning products.”

Optimization for voice search will be imperative for organizations sooner than you think. Now is the time to start thinking about your voice strategy if you haven’t already.

“The guy who will win is the guy who will have iconic brands and products,” said L’Oreal SA’s Chief Digital Officer Lubomira Rochet. “I believe voice is as big as the internet—and Google—when it came.”

Additional Sources:
The Next Big Threat to Brands (Yes, Amazon’s Behind It)
How To Hack SEO in 2018

That Time When a Powerpoint Presentation Was the Best SEO Strategy

A while back, a prospect came to us looking for help. Their search traffic had all but disappeared. Leads from the website were halved, and the president of the company had suddenly become embroiled in the details of SEO.

“We only got 13 links last month, and only posted 8 articles about our main keyword. We’re still ranked #27, we need to be doing better. Can you help us?”

We started like we do with most clients, by making a dashboard. In the top left corner, in bold numbers, we showed the revenue that the website was generating. In just three weeks – a relative nanosecond in a busy sales organization – the conversation changed.

“We only converted 10% of our leads last quarter. We need to improve that to make revenue go up. Can you help us?”

You Are What You Measure

The point isn’t that focusing on SEO improvements is the wrong thing to do, but rather that organizations need to improve the metrics they measure. Of course, traffic to your website is good for business, but given the choice between more links or more revenue, there’s a clear winner. After all, what are those links good for, at the end of the day, if not a means to revenue?

In the example above, the sales presentation became the priority because it became clear that it was the fastest thing that would affect the bottom line. But that kind of insight is impossible to gain if you’re measuring links and blog posts, not revenue and expenses.

After the pitch was modernized, the close rate nearly quadrupled. Then, it was time to get to work on filling the top of the funnel, knowing we could close almost 40% of the leads. For this president and her company, the change was fast. For others, it takes a lot more effort, but it all starts with how you classify success, and looking at how you measure it.

Companies that get it wrong confuse activity for achievement. How many emails did we send? How many meetings did we have? How many times did I follow up with that vendor? That prospect? How many pipeline moves did I make?

Companies that get it right focus on results and achievements, however they happen.

What are you measuring?

Top Three Reasons We Are Still Blogging in 2018

“There are millions of blog posts published daily, will ours even get read?”

“Blogging is so 2010.”

“What could we have to say that isn’t already out there.”

Blogging isn’t new. It’s been around since the mid-1990s. We’re not about to present to you a marketing breakthrough or some magnificent new way to do things. The takeaway here is that blogging is still very relevant and vital to your communication strategy. Here’s how it can help you today.

#1 – You Will Generate More Website Traffic

According to a 2017 Hubspot report, 63% of organizations report that generating traffic and leads is their number one marketing challenge. It’s no secret you are competing against a huge amount of noise for website traffic. On top of that, you want to make sure you are generating the right website traffic.

Let’s step back for a minute and think about how people actually search the web. Unless they are typing in a specific company or product, a search typically starts with a question.

So, do me a favor. Google this: How to hire better employees?

What are your results? Scroll past the ads, and you see content in the form of articles and blog posts. In fact, even the organizations that want to sell you hiring services have served up the answer to your question in the form of content from their blog. Your prospects are looking for information to help them solve a problem. A good headline and teaser text will turn prospects that are searching into prospects that click.

#2 – You Will Convert More Prospects

In this Age of Acceleration, a term coined by author Thomas Friedman, the power of individuals has been amplified by the internet. Information is readily available at your prospects fingertips. All of your prospects carry around little internet boxes that give them instant answers to their questions, and more importantly, they are using that power. Prospects are more capable than ever to research products and services on their own prior to purchasing. In fact, 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. (Source) Bottom line, you need to be there with the right content – content that solves a problem, answers a question, eases a pain point. This positions you to be the right resource for your customer’s needs, which turns prospects into leads.

#3 – You Will Think Smarter About Your Overall Business

The process of writing can help you think smarter about your own business. Creating content is all about generating ideas and answers, and you might learn a thing or two, or develop a few lighting strike ideas during the process. In addition to the writing process, tracking your content engagement also gives you insight into your target prospects and the information they want. Whether you outline content or draft a complete blog post, the thought process is a valuable tool for your business growth.

 

Three Must Haves For Your Convincing Advantages

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Keep it simple, different, and memorable.

Convincing advantages will help you stand out and position you to win.

Note:  I recently wrote about messaging vs. convincing advantages (read it here) and launching your competitive advantages (read it here).

Here are three must haves for your convincing advantages.

  • Simple – must be easy to remember – easy to connect to real and relevant value.
  • Differentiate – what’s unique to you must be crisp and clear to your prospects.
  • Memorable – craft so they don’t forget – memorable advantages transform “outsiders and strangers” into engaged and effective “insiders” – aka people who buy you.

This simple and powerful transition will have you cutting through commoditization, confusion and no decision in no time!

Kill Messaging. Launch Your Convincing Advantages.

brain pathways image

Messaging doesn’t work any more in sales situations (read the earlier blog post here.) The Convincing Advantages approach works much better.

With tens of thousands of competing messages hitting your prospects on a daily basis, it’s important that your communication is clear, convincing and focused solely on how you solve your prospect’s pain. (Because that’s ALL they’re interested in.) You’re not just trying to “out-message” your direct competitors, you’re also wanting to drive your prospects’ prioritization of you up – by shutting down the distracting noise from other, unrelated solutions.

When does your messaging need an overhaul?

  • If you’re finding your prospects are too often choosing not to make any buying decision – aka “no decision”.
  • If you’ve recently lost business you should have won.
  • If you can’t get in front of the right people in your prospect organizations.

Next, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can each salesperson quickly identify the three true convincing advantages offered by your organization?
  2. Do you get the same three reasons consistently across the board?
  3. Better yet, can your prospects and customers restate these same three advantages?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, then it’s time to get to work. Now.

Messaging Vs. Convincing Advantages

light bulb idea web
There are too many instances of “messaging” hitting your prospects. Consider using the
convincing advantages approach to stand out from the crowd.

As you’re out competing to keep existing customers and gain new ones, the importance of messaging becomes evident very quickly. It’s purpose is to drive a clear and differentiating buying advantage for you and your team. To that end, I’m asking you to reconsider the whole concept and – specifically – rethink “messaging”. The move you need to make is to transform messaging into your “convincing advantages”.

With tens of thousands of competing messages hitting your prospects on a daily basis, it’s important that your communication is clear, convincing and focused solely on how you solve your prospect’s pain. (Because that’s ALL they’re interested in.) You’re not just trying to “out-message” your direct competitors, you’re also wanting to drive your prospects’ prioritization of you up – by shutting down the distracting noise from other, unrelated solutions.

It’s your choice. A messaging output that is forgettable – OR a convincing advantages strategy that stands out and positions you to win.

5 Critical Components of B2B Marketing

critical components of b2b marketing

Its a simple mix – and yet missed by so many

There are five critical components of B2B marketing— neuro-science based claims development and messaging, content, website traffic, a website, and, of course, conversion. These are ultimately the only five that really matter and yet the B2B marketing landscape is like a field of broken dreams.

I originally wrote in the context of social media marketing – but I’ve expanded for digital as a whole.

People buy based on fears and needs

Start with a neuro-science based approach that focuses on your customer’s needs, fears and pain—and extend this into all aspects of digital.

Content is the driver

Whether it’s traffic or conversions, content is the piece that attracts and helps drive conversions; especially when it’s relevant, useful and audience specific.

Traffic matters

When it comes to the big metrics – traffic is one of the big three. Traffic can originate from organic sources, PPC and social ads.

Website

Our CEO likes to ask our clients – “is your website your lead sales person?” Your website should generate consumption and conversion.

Conversion matters

Even with great messaging and the right traffic, conversion is the most important piece. Whether it’s micro or macro conversions, we all want real results and tangible outcomes.

Yes, it’s challenging to get all five components right, but the outcomes make the effort worthwhile.

Do You Have A Stand-out Offer That Your Customers Can’t Resist? Or Are You Regularly Left Standing Out In The Cold, While They Wait To Make Their Minds Up?

Increased product and service offer commoditization and customer indecision are severely reducing the effectiveness of the sales operation, says Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Taken together, they form one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Hanging on the Telephone – Fully 88% of Sales Calls Are USELESS !

There’s a stark truth every business that depends on sales growth needs to take on board. According to Forrester research, around 88% of sales calls are viewed by customers as being ineffective; i.e. they add no value at all to the customer’s life. Paying anyone to succeed only 12% of their time at work in any role is a terrifying thought. But when that pitiful strike rate applies to the very engine of the company’s growth – sales – it’s enough to leave the most seasoned business leader screaming!

The situation may be tough. But at least there are no mysteries surrounding this level of failure. The customers surveyed by Forrester confirmed they don’t respond to that mighty 88% of sales calls because there’s nothing in it for them when they do. It’s just more noise and more stuff –“cognitive overload” if you want a technical term.

The people making the calls are unable to communicate the full value – or any real value – of their sales message. They often don’t know enough about their industry, their market and their solution to be convincing. And when you know less about what you’re selling than the guy you’re trying to sell it to knows, it’s a fair bet that you’re in trouble.

What Other Operational Area of YOUR Business Would Accept a 12% Success Rate?

Of course there are organizations that would regard a 12% success rate as adequate. Successful even. They would see themselves as keeping pace with competitors. Maybe even outpacing them. So that’s ok? Well sorry, but no it isn’t ok. Not if you want to create a profitable organization, fuelled by vigorous sales led growth. Drill down into the successes – those times you do get through and have your message listened to by a customer. Even in that situation of viable opportunity, you’re likely losing out around 76% of the time. How so?

Credible data suggests that 16% of sales lost will be to competitors. Again, you might think it perfectly ok to retain well over 80% of your closable sales. That looks like a home run … until you dig deeper. Competitors leave you with four fifths of the potential pie. But it’s not your commercial rivals who are eating your cheese (and whatever other filling you have in your pie). The culprit isn’t an honorable foe in a clean fought battle. It’s the miserable, skulking, creeping fog that is customer indecision.

Customer Indecision – Accounting for a Pretty Decisive 60% of Lost Sales

Indecision accounts for around 60% of lost sales. Customers take an age to make their minds up. Somewhere along the way, the love and enthusiasm die. And you lose out. What are the reasons for this very undesirable situation? And what can you do to improve it?

Start with a deep realization: there is no advantage to you in letting customer indecision creep in and take root. You need to stand out fast. You need to stand out enough to trigger a decision – even if that decision goes against you. And you either need to make the sale or make your way out of the situation and on to the next opportunity. The long sales cycle never makes you a winner. Take a hard look at your current pipeline. If it is clogged with sluggish, wannabe deals that are not really going anywhere, examine the root causes and take action.

Effective action depends on making a second realization. Most customers are “indecisive” for a small number of important reasons. The key driver is commoditization. Customers do not see what you are offering as being different in any significant way. They could find it somewhere else, with at least a couple of viable alternatives and maybe dozens, or even hundreds, of other choices. And the first rule with any commodity is that you always buy it for lowest price not top dollar.

Can You EVER Win a Race to the Bottom on Costs?

Buying for lowest price means a race to the bottom for your costs, your margins and any prospect of a decent profit. You can only win this game if your whole operation is configured around delivering lowest price and you know you can work on wafer thin margins. BUT … If you need to make the best profit you can on the most sales you can achieve, you literally cannot afford the luxury of a bunch of “indecisive” customers. And you must, therefore, wake up and get real.

Think of the commoditized market as a Roman gladiator arena. You and your fellow combatants are out there on the sand under the burning sun. You’re the ones sweating and straining. Literally giving your life’s blood. In the end only one of you can win. Along the way, you’re providing entertainment for a bunch of guys sitting in the shade, in no hurry to put their thumbs up or down, as long as the show continues. Unlike a real gladiator, fortunately, you have the chance to walk away. So do that. Leave the arena. Work on some new moves. How?

Don’t be afraid to look very rationally – critically – at what you’re selling. If it is a commodity, re-configure to make the sale on a new basis: price led, fast, no prisoners. Thumbs up or down in a quick clean fight. If however you truly believe that your offer is stand-out, that it deserves real, focused, positive customer attention that leads to winning the business, then equip yourself to be a winner.

Get Yourself Some Lethal Weapons

Your new sales armory will include three lethal weapons:

Lethal weapon 1. Make Your Offer A “Must Have” Some estimates say that we are faced with around 35 thousand decisions a day. Even if the figure is closer to 350 or 35, that’s still a lot of decisions. So, clarify and tighten your offer. Strip out the “cognitive overload” and make choosing you – quickly and decisively – a no-brainer for your customers.

Lethal, weapon 2. Make Your Sales Team Make Sense Become certain, through message clarification, training and real understanding, that every time one of your sales people makes a sales call, they will add value to the customer, drive a positive decision and eliminate indecision.

Lethal weapon 3. If You Don’t Win, Don’t Lose Out In The Sales Process Stop confusing activity with achievement. As soon as it becomes clear that your “customer” is just playing you, disengage. Cut your losses and move on. It’s a certainty that you will save resources and protect your credibility. It’s not impossible that some of those “indecisive” customers will quickly realize that you are exactly the kind of confident, successful and determined supplier they need.

Identity Crisis. If They Don’t Know Who You Are, Maybe It’s Because YOU Don’t Know Either?

You can’t expect customers to come to your door if they’re uncertain who you are or what benefits you can bring them, argues Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Lack of a Strong Message – AKA a unique, compelling and consistent value proposition – is one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Say Again, What Do You Do For A Living?

Picture the scene. We’re at the Court of King Arthur. Somebody has decided name badges are a good idea, along with the swords and chain mail. Those badges read “Kevin. Knight In Shining Armor”; or “Cedric. Swineherd”; or “Arthur. King”. Everybody does exactly what it says on the, limited, labels on their tin.

Scroll forward a few centuries. Kids may still dream simple dreams of becoming fire fighters, railroad engineers, nurses and veterinarians. (Some may even long for the day when they are lawyers.) But their parents are experiencing the complexities of the modern business world.

Rushing out the door each day, they grab their work security pass. It confirms they are a “Solutions Architect”, a “Vertical Marketing Specialist” or a “Regional Business Development Lead”. Only a trip to the top of the tallest tower in South East Asia would give enough time for the elevator pitch on how they actually make a living.

Now, step up the complexity from the individual to the entire organization. Could that Solutions Architect, Vertical Marketing Specialist or Regional Business Development Lead tell you, in a single sentence, what their employer sells? With equal brevity, could they explain why customers buy whatever it is from their outfit and not their competitors?

To Explain What It Does On The Label, Would You Need A Very Big Label?

Achieving total clarity of expression of the corporate purpose is one of the biggest challenges facing business today. Global corporations spend billions hiring the best communications brains around. Their task is to distil horrible complexity into memorable messages with real impact.

Make no mistake; this is not about navel gazing and vanity. (You find the true vanity and lack of self-awareness in the corporate speak so many organizations still inflict on their markets.) This is a recognition that everything – including an effective sales operation – flows from a unique, compelling and consistent value proposition.

Once you have that proposition cracked, you have a strong core for your message -wherever and whenever it appears, from advertising to online presence to what your sales people say out in the field. Think of your ideal message as magnetic. Pulling your customers and prospects towards you. Lining your sales team up behind a consistent pitch to the market. Making sure that your external marketing and communications counsel has strong direction.

Does YOUR Sales Message Have “Magnetism”?

To discover whether you already have a magnetic message, you can do a couple of quick and simple experiments. Ask your sales team to write down what they believe they are selling and why they believe customers buy it. Ask some of your customers to state why they buy from you. Do the same exercise yourself. Then look at the results.

If you get a series of strong, single-minded and consistent statements, you likely have a magnetic message in place already. If you get as many different versions as there are respondents in your sample group, your message needs some work.

Of course you could say, “So what if I don’t have this great single-minded message? We still sell stuff. We are still an effective organization.” That’s a legitimate response. BUT … It does not take into account significant risks to your business. Risks that may not hit you today but will surely have an impact over time.

The Message Is Clear and Urgent: Not Having a Clear and Urgent Message Means Serious Risks to Sales

The first risk is the sales relationship hijack. If YOU don’t own your value proposition, then you are leaving it to your sales people to own it instead. If they are inconsistent and unconvincing, you are losing impact in the market. If they are excellent, your business is still at risk. Why? If they believe your customers buy them – and not your unique message – then in reality the sales guys own the customer relationship. What happens if (when) they decide to walk and take that relationship with them?

The second risk is the marketing muddle. If you are not in command of a strong message, your advertising people, your PR, your digital marketers and anybody you involve in promoting your business will very likely do their own thing. They will be marching to their beat, not yours. And, over time, that can only drive inconsistencies, mixed messages and a diluting of your market presence.

The third risk is the competitor-favorable vacuum. While your offer lacks clarity and your profile remains low, or off the radar, competitors will move into the resulting vacuum. And they’ll do it as quickly and vigorously as they can.

The final risk is arguably the most disturbing of all. It is lost market opportunity. Every day, every hour and minute that the impact of your message trails behind the strength and the quality of your offer, you are losing opportunities to make a sale. And that’s damaging your business.

Really Nail What Makes YOU Different and Special. And Start to Nail It TODAY

The bottom line is this: if you have a corporate identity crisis today, you cannot live with it until tomorrow. The risks are just too big. It is time to nail down that unique, compelling and consistent value proposition. Unique – what is it about you that no competitor can touch? Compelling – what is it that makes your message magnetic to the people who matter most to your business growth? Consistent – how do you say what you need to say, strongly and simply every time, so that the impact of your message is always increasing?

The path to value proposition clarity may be tough. It may throw up fundamental questions along the way. Why do you do what you do? What you do? Who do you do it for? You may even, on behalf of your business, have to ask “Who Am I?” But one thing is for sure: unless you have the insight and the confidence to answer that question yourself, nobody (and certainly no customer) will answer it for you.

 

 

 

“The Long Goodbye” AKA The Extended Sales Cycle

Extended sales cycles are NOT an indicator of positively developing relationships, argues Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Quite the opposite. They are one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Sold on the Long Sales Cycle

Let’s be honest. There can’t be many of us who haven’t, at some time, allowed a sales cycle to drag. Even if in our hearts we know it’s going nowhere. The reasons for allowing this sorry soap opera to play out are many and varied.

We may truly believe that the other guy is about to sign. All those rain checks and requests for a little more work on the numbers are part of a real decision process. So we cut some slack and then some more slack. And, somewhere along the way, we lose sight of the fact that the rope has gone slack.

We may need something to put into our time management system. Maybe business is a little slow and something, anything, to feed the job justification machine is welcome.

It may even be that we come to like the guy at the prospect’s end of this elongated ritual dance. So we can’t bring ourselves to think he would knowingly jerk us around.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to throw a big pail of very cold water over the extended sales cycle. The initial shock will be bracing, horrendous even. But the long term effects – feeling alert, clear eyed, ready to look reality square in the face – will be worth any immediate pain.

It’s Time to De-clutter the Pipeline

Looking honestly and rationally at your current sales cycles is the corporate equivalent of a home de-cluttering. Today, you may be comforted and reassured by those bales of unread magazines in the garage or that fancy exercise machine that’s still in its box, even though any day now you’re going to set it up and put it through its paces.

Tomorrow – after the passing pangs of getting rid – you’ll realize that you can live without them. You’ll enjoy room to maneuver more easily and headspace to plan better replacements for the stuff you just threw out. Heck, you may even get around to reading today’s paper or going to the gym for real!

In business, you’ll have the same sense of freedom to do something better, something more effective. Note too that this new freedom is not simply desirable. It is imperative. Why? Because other people don’t play fair. You’re sustaining a long-drawn-out sales cycle (that in reality isn’t leading to a sale). Meanwhile, your competitors won’t respect your investment in sales time, effort and cost.

The Other Guy WON”T Play Nice

In the already far distant past, the sales dance floor was level. Nobody had any spectacularly different techniques than anybody else. Today, while you’re slow dancing your way through complex wannabe-customer footwork, your rivals can burst in body popping and ram you right off the floor.

Under no circumstances will they wait in a gentlemanly queue until your dance is, finally, over. They will jog your elbow, spill your drink and muscle in on your desired date. Make no mistake, they have the moves. A timely (timely from their perspective, potentially disastrous from yours) email. A webinar. A special offer. A new product or service fronted with brutal efficiency on social media. These techniques – and many more – are easily accessed and implemented. Competitors will use them. And all your elaborate tail feather display can end up as just so much wasted effort, as a rival sashays off into the sunset with a triumphant arm around that signed order.

Long Sales Cycles FEED Your Competition

In more strictly business terms, each extended sales cycle contributes to a dangerous asymmetry for your revenue generating operation. Meaning? The effort is entirely out of whack with the rewards. You take time to engage with a prospect who isn’t committing. Then you take more time. And more time after that. All the while, the prospect is learning more and more about you, about your market, about the product or service you’re selling. So they’re growing in knowledge. They’re gaining deeper and deeper exposure to your pricing structures and your willingness to do deals. So they’re growing in negotiating strength. They’re increasingly tying down your sales teams, setting the sales cycle timetable and deciding the key events and outcomes. So they’re growing in power.

Short version: you are paying for someone who isn’t even your customer to gain knowledge, strength and power. And all the time you’re doing this, your own position is becoming weaker and weaker. You could end so weakened that you find yourself relying on the psychology of the roulette wheel: you’ve already staked so much that you may just as well keep going and hope the next spin rolls your way. At this stage, you are no longer a rational sales operation. You are a love struck suitor living in a state of desperate hope!

The Last Shall Be First, And the First … 

Meanwhile … a competitor who has invested nothing in the very sales cycle that has siphoned months or even years of your energies can come in at the eleventh hour and steal the prize. Fortune favors the brave and this guy can afford to be brave! After all, he has nothing to lose. He can make an offer. He can fine-tune his offer (assuming he even wants to) against benchmarks you kindly provided during your endless detailed negotiations. He can say, “take it or leave it” and really mean it because it’s your skin in the game not his!

From your prospect’s point of view, this guy is the new hero on the block, complete with heroic powers of agility and flexibility. From your perspective, you have unintentionally bred a ‘super-competitor’ by pumping him up with your resources.

Sadly, the typical outcome of the extended sales cycle is the long goodbye. And its destination is the land of unintended and unpleasant consequences. You started out in the belief that it would go somewhere. It went nowhere. You thought it would build a relationship. It encouraged exploitation (of you). You thought it represented safety and security. It brought uncertainty and competitor threat (driven by the competitor advantage you inadvertently created).

So …

The next time you are even contemplating engagement with a commitment-phobic prospect. The next time all the signals indicate a long-drawn-out but ultimately fruitless courtship. The next time you find yourself saying “they’ll surely sign any time now”. STOP. Now remember the insightful advice offered by Beyonce: If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it!