Transparency and Inbound Marketing: The Greatest ‘Sales Technique’ of the Information Age

by Marcus Sheridan

I got into a nice little debate yesterday with my good friend Danny Brown over at Gini Dietrich’s site, Spin Sucks. You see, I wrote a guest post there entitled ‘5 Reasons You Should Discuss Pricing on Your Company Website’ and as I’d hoped, it sparked great conversation and debate on both sides of the issue (you really should check it out btw).

<Marcus Tangent Alert***> Speaking of ‘debate’, I don’t think we see enough of that in blogs (See Davina’s virtual love fest post). I love it when people don’t agree with me yet still act civil. For example, in the article I wrote earlier this week about some of the best blog header designs on the internet, Gini Dietrich and Shonali Burke both didn’t like my choices. In fact, Shonali was the first to comment, and gave me the immediate ‘thumbs down’. I was thrilled. Seriously. But that’s a whole other discussion and now I’ll get back on topic ;-)

In this debate with Danny, of which many other folks chimed in, the key word that kept coming up again and again was ‘Transparency’. You see, I firmly believe that transparency, combined with great inbound marketing, is the greatest ‘sales technique’ in the world today. And no, I’m not exaggerating one iota.

The Age of Sales Techniques is Dying

There was a period in my life of about 5 years when I read just about every book on ‘selling’ that was ever written. I couldn’t seem to devour enough of the subject and my natural tendency to ‘be the best’ lead me from one book to the next. But all of this stopped a couple of years ago when I started to undergo a complete paradigm shift regarding my approach to selling, and it happened when I truly started to understand the principle of inbound/content marketing.

Frankly, I don’t think most people really understand inbound marketing from a contextual standpoint. Seriously. They don’t get it. Heck, many make it out to be a ‘science’ way more complicated than it really needs to be. As for me, I see it in these simple terms, and if you never remember another thing I say here on TSL, please just remember this:

If your customers have questions, it’s your duty to answer them….with utter transparency.

Got it? Good.

The entire reason my swimming pool website is the most popular of its kind in the world, and the entire reason it generates more leads than I could ever possibly handle, is because it follows this simple aforementioned statement.

That’s why if someone asks me a question, I go write an article about it.

  • “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?”
  • “Who shouldn’t buy a fiberglass pool?”
  • “How do fiberglass pools compare with concrete pools?”
  • “Do fiberglass pools look cheap?”
  • “What are the problems with a fiberglass pool?”
  • “Who are your biggest fiberglass pool competitors?”
  • “Who makes the best fiberglass pool?”
  • “Are fiberglass pools ugly?”
  • “Are fiberglass pools too small?”
  • “How does ‘Brand X’ compare to ‘Brand Y’?”

The list of questions goes on and on, but with each one, upon hearing it, I wrote about it. 400 brutally honest articles later, it’s a consumer’s best friend—The voice of the fiberglass pool industry.

All this with no Google keyword grader, no expensive SEO consulting analysis, nothing.

Just listening and writing, that’s all it is.

But transparency goes way further in the sales process too. Whenever I set up a sales appointment with a prospect, one clear point is always made, and it usually sounds a little something like this:

“Mr. Customer, the entire reason I’ve spent countless hours writing articles and creating videos about fiberglass pools is because I care about consumers like you. I want you to be educated. I want you to be informed. This is also why the purpose of my visit to your home is not really about teaching. I’ve already done that and I expect you to take advantage of the tools I’ve given you. The purpose of my visit is to help you choose which pool and options, price them for you, and then earn your business at that time. In other words, I’m there to sell you a pool. Sound Good?”

Almost always, after a few second of surprise, the prospect says “Ok Marcus. That sounds great!” As you might imagine, this then leads to an incredibly productive sales appointment and very high ‘closing rates’.

Is Anyone Else Sick of ‘Sales Techniques’?

I’ve always been bothered by the fact that selling involves one sales technique after another that eventually leads to one closing technique after another that eventually leads to one ‘no’ (from the prospect) after another that eventually leads to more ‘resolve concern’ techniques after another that eventually leads to a ‘yes’…or ‘no’. Crazy, huh?

I now prefer to skip all that junk and simply give great content, make sure the prospect does his/her homework, and then reach a natural conclusion—either we’re a good fit or not.

Do you realize how many consumers are simply looking for a voice they can trust? People are so jaded with tricky semantics and silly sales processes (especially online) that all they want is for someone to be straight with them.

Why Not?

So I say why not? Why not be brutally transparent with your approach to business? Why not be the voice of your industry? Why not address issues that no one else has the bravery or guts to talk about? And why not earn the trust of all those around you in the process?


Your Turn

So what’s your take on all this? Do businesses need to be more transparent with their content and approach? Or should we not try to fix something ‘that isn’t broke’? Whether you have just a thought or a diatribe, I’d invite you to jump in below and say what’s on your mind. :-)

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