Are you listening?

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re not being heard? It happened to me last week in a meeting with a potential supplier. I was discussing my needs but only being heard on a very superficial level, if at all. As a result what I was being offered was not what I needed and at times I felt talked down to. The problem was that my contact was not really listening.

Last night Ruth Whiteley was fired from The Apprentice largely because she talked too much. She didn’t sell because she was too busy talking and didn’t give her prospects chance to think or act. There’s a pattern here. The sad thing is that Ruth Whiteley is a sales trainer and my conversation was with a coach. Both should know that listening effectively is the most vital skill.

Listening is a vital component of selling

We learn when we listen

These days we’re all too busy trying to get our message out there. All too often we’re broadcasting rather than communicating. Be different. Stop and listen. Listen to the words as well as the music. Listen to what is being said, what is being withheld and what the speaker can’t find the words for. Ask questions to help the speaker to communicate with clarity, use encouraging body language and above all stop talking!

Effective listening leads to understanding, helps us to spot opportunities and creates empathy. Next time you’re having a conversation or in a meeting just be mindful of how much information you are really taking in. Are you fully engaged in listening or too busy thinking what to have for dinner, how to respond or making a judgment? I could go on but I want to hear what you think. Do you ever find yourself speaking because silence is uncomfortable? Have you been frustrated at not being heard?


Unique is an over used word!

In this increasingly competitive and crowded global market place it is tempting to claim our product or service is unique in order to stand out from the crowd, but is it true? The definition of ‘unique’ is ‘the only one of its kind’, ‘unlike anything else’, use the word to describe anything that doesn’t meet this definition and you are lying. Maybe lying is a harsh word but it could well be the way your audience perceives your claim and if they think you have lied with one word they may think that none of your claims are true.

There's not much to set this builder apart from the competition.

There’s not much to set this builder apart from the competition.

The trouble with the overuse of unique is that nobody really believes it any more so, to add credibility, the word has to be justified with an explanation.

Is Rosser Reeves to blame?

I believe that many business owners get hung up on the idea of the unique selling proposition (USP) invented by Rosser Reeves in the 1940s. Reeves applied the concept to advertising rather than to business as a whole. He believed that advertisements should sell and that to do so an advert needed to:

  • make a proposition to the reader: Buy this product for this benefit
  • the proposition should be distinguishable from competitors by being something that a competitor does not, or cannot, offer so therefore a unique offer
  • the offer needs to be strong enough to get people to take the action you want them to take i.e. buy, so should therefore sell

You can see therefore that it is the offer that has to be unique. This is a very different concept to thinking that your whole business or even one product or service has to be unique. Your product maybe very popular in the USA but you may be the only distributor in the UK which means that, whilst the product is not unique, you do have a unique selling proposition. You may not be the only pharmacist in town but you may be the only one open 24/7, therefore you have a unique offer.

The trick is to sell your unique offer without using the word

At least this builder is trying to find an angle.

At least this builder is trying to find an angle.

So try and find another way to describe what makes you, your product or service different. You could try an alternative word or phrase such as:

  • bespoke
  • original
  • rare
  • distinctive
  • exclusive
  • one-off
  • purpose built
  • personal
  • tailor made

Alternatively you could try to sum up your point of difference in a sentence or two of persuasive marketing copy. John Lewis sum up their offer in ‘Never knowingly undersold’, it’s immediately clear what is different about their business. Another good example would be Fedex’s ‘when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight’, or Bose’s ‘better sound through research’. An old Timex slogan, ‘it takes a licking but still keeps on ticking’ describes the robustness of the watch in a few, well chosen words. Apple has built it’s business on the principle of ‘Think Different’ Another good old one was Opal Fruit’s ‘Made to make your mouth water’. None of these are incapable of imitation but they are so owned by the brands that any attempt to copy is likely to result in legal action.

How can you develop an offer which you can ‘own’; an offer that sets you apart from your competitors; an offer which appeals to your target market? How can you communicate this offer without using the word ‘unique’? This is a topic we’ll be developing in my Plan for Results programme which launches soon. Find out more here.

Glenda Shawley helps owners of small businesses understand what matters to their customers and then communicate this in a way that turns suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into fans.

Watch your language!

One of the advantages of working for yourself is that you can sometimes choose the hours you work so, on Wednesday afternoon, I decided to give myself an hour or two off to watch Andy Murray’s quarter final match at Wimbledon. An earlier appointment meant I didn’t get to see the first few minutes of the match so when I switched on the television they were into the second set. I didn’t need to see the scoreboard, or even a ball hit, to know that things were not going well. One look at Andy Murray’s body language said it all. He was a defeated man.

Body languageNow if I could see that from my sitting room in Ealing then so could his opponent from the other side of the net. In fact after the match Dimitrov said that he knew Murray was not ‘on song’ even in the warm up. That got me thinking that we can sometimes be our own worst enemies.


What does this mean for business?

In business we can lose opportunities because our body language sends the wrong message. If the non verbals and the verbals are not in alignment then we can appear untrustworthy. If we don’t appear confident when we make a pitch our audience will think we can’t deliver. If we appear over confident we can be misjudged as arrogant.

The problem is we have little control over our body language so we have to get our mental attitude right. We may have to silence that inner voice that is undermining our self confidence. We may have to practice until we can deliver our pitch with confidence. We may need a morale boost from a friend, mentor or coach. We certainly need to be aware of our body language and the message it is sending.

So if you don’t get the planned outcome from exchanges with others think why not? Did your body language support your words? Did you inadvertently do something that upset your audience? Did you give the game away?


A case study in how to do email marketing.

My last couple of posts have been a bit negative, showing you how not to do email marketing, so today I’m going to share an example of how it should be done. This one landed in my inbox with the subject line: 3 reasons to order today, GLENDA! Short, sharp to the point and personalised, as this is a company I’ve bought from before, I’m intrigued. This is the email:

Email marketing

A great example of email marketing.

What’s good about it?

  • I can see in an instant whether this is something of interest
  • It has a strong image which clearly displays the product’s features
  • It has a headline which is consistent with the subject line of the email
  • It gives three clear, succinct reasons (as promised) 3 is a good number, it sounds enticing whereas 1 would be ‘so what’ and 5 would take too much space. Avoid even numbers because the brain splits them visually so that they have less impact.
  • It makes a relevant special offer to encourage action (no remote control cars or pasta sets here)
  • It highlights a feature I might be interested in and which is consistent with the image
  • It gives me a reason for acting now
  • It tells me what action to take without bullying me into a purchase.

The click takes us to…

Email marketing example

Again a short and succinct message which is still personalised to me. The message re-emphasises reasons why I should buy (my only gripe is that there’s a grammar mistake, it should be ‘an easy decision’). The order form appears below this message making it easy to take the action so in a couple of minutes and just two clicks I can have placed my order. Is your email marketing that simple?

Here’s what the whole webpage looks like:

A great sales page

One click and I’m through to where I can place my order. One more click and I’m done.

Another case study in email marketing.

What makes you open an email? It’s either because it is from someone you like to hear from or it’s because the subject line interests you, right? So this morning I opened an email with a subject line that interested me, ‘Incredible half price offers on office essentials’ I expected to see some great half price deals, this is what I saw first


No mention of half price deals, just freebies and binders which appear not to be at half price and are quite expensive. If the giveaways are the most important hook to get me to buy then surely they should be in the subject line. I’m not interested in remote control cars or pasta sets I’m interested in essential supplies for my office.

They did eventually get to the half price deals at the bottom of the page ‘below the fold’ on my computer screen, here’s what was on offer


Lessons for the small business owner

  • Decide what your target market will be interested in?
  • Write a headline that will appeal to their interests.
  • Develop that interest with relevant product or service information in the first paragraph.
  • Make the value obvious
  • If you think that a freebie or a special offer will be more likely to make people buy put it after the information about the product or service that captured their interest.
  • If it’s a time limited deal tell people they need to hurry e.g. ‘offer closes in 3 days’ ‘buy now whilst stocks last’. Make this bold. In this email the time limit is in the legal mumbo jumbo at the bottom of the page!
  • Make it obvious what action you want people to take.
  • Make only one offer per email or people will be confused.

Do you want to do better than this?

If you want an email marketing campaign that works talk to us. Our last campaign had a 64.1% open rate, a click through rate of 16.6% and was making sales within the hour. Call Glenda on +44 20 8991 2767 (8.00a.m to 8.00p.m. GMT please) or email

How much information do your customers want?

I’ve been listening to a few discussions about food labelling on the radio. Some are advocating more labelling and others less, as I’m also re-doing my website currently it got me thinking about how much information our prospects need.

What the discussions have shown is that there is no common agreement. Some people want great detail others just the key components. Meeting the needs of both is challenging but not impossible.

Learn from the experts

Look at the sales letters and landing pages written by accomplished copywriters. They make great use of sub heads to aid skim reading for those who are detail averse. In between the sub-heads are paragraphs of great detail for those who care about those things. In this way they meet the needs of both groups. How can you do that?

  • Copy the style of the experts and use sub-heads to break up your text and lead readers down the page. Check that the story makes sense if all your reader looks at are the subheads.
  • Use bullet points to cover the most important points
  • Make a short video for those who don’t like reading long copy. You can talk to camera, string together a series of stills with captions or turn a PowerPoint or similar presentation into a video.
  • Look at tools like and for fun and low cost ways to make video.

Here’s a quick Animoto video I made this morning to illustrate my point.

Now I need to make some more for my website. Why not have a go at making a video yourself and share it here?

Another example of a classic marketing mistake

  1. I fight a constant battle with my inbox. It’s hard enough to make time to read the interesting stuff let alone some of the claptrap that lands in there. However before this one makes the trash folder I had to share it with you, together with some of my thoughts that you might find useful. I’ll make my comments in aqua italics so you can tell them apart from the email:

“1 day Agile and Scrum Workshop Am i Being invited to learn about rugby?

Dear Glenda,

In our pursuit to awareness on Agile, Global Impeccable is delighted to introduce one day training program on Agile and Scrum in United Kingdom. Why would I be interested in their pursuit of awareness? A classic marketing mistake of talking about ‘we, us, our and I’ rather than ‘you and your’.The grammar is pretty appalling too so why would I want to read on?

London: 21st Mar-2014


This one day training will introduce you to the fundamental principles of Agile concepts & practices of Scrum. Attendees will participate and be a part of hands-on activities that will help them practice the theory they learn. Do I need to bring my shorts and head protector? What in on earth are Agile and Scrum?

This 1-day course teaches the principles and practices that make Scrum effective in managing projects. The course uses the principles of Scrum and Agile, where the learning outcome is driven by the needs of the participants through a combination of expert instruction and self-directed learning. Scopes to reflect and adapt the direction of the course are offered at regular intervals. So it’s not about rugby then but what kind of projects is this for? What is the learning outcome? I still have no idea what I have to gain from coming on this workshop.

Elements which will be covered during the one day course.

  • Scrum in Practice: the course is designed to illustrate Scrum in action
  • Understanding of the Agile Manifesto and what it means to them Who is ‘them’?
  • Essence of Scrum: values, foundations and a new way of thinking
  • Understanding how Scrum values and foundations are related to the practices
  • Get a sense of what self-organization is (and is not)
  • Can draw a diagram of mechanics of Scrum: framework, roles, artifacts & flow Is it art, archaeology, acting or what?

At the end of this course, delegates would take away:

  • PMPs: You can earn CCR 8 PDUs for this course What the hell…? (Sorry I haven’t turned into Gordon Ramsay but really…!)
  • Online Training on basic Scrum Concepts So is it a workshop or online training?
  • A glossary of terms that were covered during the class I need a glossary of terms for the marketing material let alone the training. Keep it Simple, Stupid! 
  • A Soft copy of the slide deck will be emailed at all registrants I’ve already lost the will to live!
  • A reading list for further learning
  • Attendees will get 5% discount for our upcoming scrum certification programs conducted by Global Impeccable

At the end of the training the participants will have the confidence and understanding to begin to socialize Scrum at their own organization and departmental units in improving their processes and output. How much worse can it get? So am I now going to a party?

You will learn the concepts & practices that you can take to your projects, teams, and organization and make a difference right away. You will learn how to lead teams in Agile or Scrum mode. Wait a minute might there be something in it for me? Am I supposed to recognise a benefit here?

For more details please log on to: AgileCredential

Registration Details:

Standard Price: GBP 499

Early bird price: GBP 399

Early Bird Date: 20th Feb – 2014

It would be great if you could let me know your interest in joining this program so that we can take it further. Hardly the most powerful call to action!

Looking forward to hearing from you.

To know further details, information on group discounts, In-house training, corporate nominations for the training, please contact us. (and pay for the long distance phone call to the USA.  I think not.)

Thanks & Best Regards”

Did you understand a word of that?

I’m none the wiser despite reading this several times. What do some of these sentences mean? A principle of communication that we would all do to bear in mind is ‘KISS’ i.e. Keep it short and simple. Here I’m really talking about the vocabulary. Shorter words might have made the meaning more obvious. Sometimes documents need to be longer to be fully understood.

Why do so many people fall in to the trap of using unexplained acronyms and abbreviations? These only work if they are familiar to your target audience and you both understand them to mean the same thing.

This communication fails from the marketing perspective too

  • The headline is hardly captivating!
  • My needs and wants are not addressed. I don’t recognise that I have the problem that the writer wants to solve so why would I be interested?
  • The copy is all about the seller not the prospect.
  • Give me some clear aims and objectives for the course so that I have a chance of understanding what I might learn.
  • If you must describe features turn them into benefits so I can see what’s in it for me.
  • There are no mechanisms for establishing the organisation’s credibility so how do I know that it is a genuine offer? Give me testimonials, pass rates etc.
  • I need a clear, strong call to action before I hit the delete button.

Writing copy is not easy. We often get too close to our own material to see what is wrong with it. If you would like an outsider’s view of one piece of your marketing email it and I’ll give you my views, in private, not in a blog! However if your copy is brilliant I might ask your permission to share it here. There’s no charge for this service which is available until February 28th 2014.