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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{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

John Sherry August 18, 2011 at

Yeah baby! That’s what I want to see Marcus, good old honesty and upfront transparency. It’s been missing for years and it’s high time it came back. I think we’re moving into a new era where people are opening up and not hiding and that includes business. The old selling merely for profit is old hat – we want to connect to humans direct (like on social media which is why so many businesses have a profile there) and build a real relationship with them. Which equates to trust, respect, manners, and helpfulness coming back. It’s not the price of the product that will matter but the price we pay when we don’t act and behave true and genuine in all our dealings. What others see, needs to be who we truthfully are.

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

Hey John, much thanks for starting things off my friend. :-) It makes sense you appreciate this style, as in many ways symbolic of all the great things you right about—honesty, being real, accepting the good and the bad, relationships, etc.

You’re the best JS, thanks for all your support my friend,

Marcus

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Frank Dickinson August 20, 2011 at

John & Marcus -

I was going to write a detailed comment about how I feel about transparency and the sales “process’ – but John took the words right out of my mouth!

Your experience over the last several years is a perfect example of “if it’s broke – get to fixin’ it”. The cynicism of the marketplace needs more people who are willing to shut up, listen and then open up with complete transparency.

When that happens – the jadedness will fall away.

Thanks John and Marcus for this!

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Hey Frank, great to see you my friend, and yes, we had a complete paradigm shift within our company and the dividends have been absolutely amazing. Like you said, I’ve personally seen ‘jadedness’ melt away with this approach. Powerful stuff brother.

Thanks for all Frank,

Marcus

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Rob Mink August 18, 2011 at

Right on the nose IMHO. Being a younger generation guy, this seemed obvious after you pointed it out. Why would anyone shop somewhere that they do not trust or are not the most clear about? From day one, my shop has no hidden fees, not even travel fees for that exact reason.
Keep it up!

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

Upfront and honest, nothing better than that, ehh Mink? ;-)

Good to see you stop by bud, and love the avatar!!

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Yomar August 18, 2011 at

Marcus, I really love your style and I have to say I admire your work these days more than many leaders in your area.. But I may be biased because I’m with you on so many things here.

I can’t tell you how many clients have given me pushback when I tell them they NEED to be more transparent and authentic. Gone are the days of “call for price” or “pay X amount for the full report”. We have to curate content that brings value to our audience, paying customers or not. That establishes credibility, trust, and authority (which is much more important than mere “expert” or “guru” status).

This is the Information Age, folks.. We have more and more DIYers out there. They want to be able to do what we can do and that’s fine because, guess what, people will eventually WANT to pay for the convenience, fresh perspective, and strategic oversight that we can’t provide ourselves, no matter how self-sufficient we are.

The interesting thing here is that some of the stuff you talk about here, Marcus, is exactly what SEO is about. My approach to #SEO and #SEM (yes, hash tags in comments.. always optimizing LOL) revolves around the real needs, concerns, and questions of potential customers and supporters out there. This is where getting involved with Q&A platforms is huge. What’s even better is that all that wonderful content you’ve created can be repurposed for public speaking gigs, webinars, eBooks, and more, so people can consume the information just the way they want it.

One of my favorite things to do when I am in full-on creativitiy-help-others mode is look at the keywords that lead people to my sites. From there, I look at the implied questions and tangent issues.. So I never find myself without ideas (just a shortage of time to do what I love most but that will change soon enough).

This call to action is powerful.

To me, your CTA says, “Stop trying to sell and just help people. Stop trying to create perceived value and address REAL needs. Stop caring so much about money and care more about others.”

What I love here is how your blog dispels so much of the popular “expert” opinion. Your blog is far from a niche site by most standards.. Yet you maintain underlying themes that stem from the core of your business.

Even more important here is the fact that you’ve realized you don’t sell pools. You’re selling an experience. In fact, long before I learned what you “really did”, I considered you an expert in customer service above all. That speaks volumes about what you are doing right here, bro!

You know me, I can go on and on… But I think I touched all the key points. I’m glad I carved out some time today to catch up with my favorite influencers. This really spoke to me and aligns so well with what I’ve been putting into play myself.

Can I get a “w00t w00t” anyone? ;o)

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Marcus Sheridan August 19, 2011 at

Woot Woot Yomar!! Dang bro, this was better than the article itself I do believe! Wow :-)

I don’t want to be redundant, so I’ll just say that I hope everyone reads this comment because it’s spot-on and I can tell you really know what the heck you’re doing when it comes to working with clients and content.

Thanks for rockin this out Yomar!!

Marcus

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Yomar August 19, 2011 at

As always, you are much too kind bro.. But your words are always uplifting!

You’re one of the main people I use as examples of “businesses that get it”. In fact, I just finished recommending you as an expert on #LI and I don’t even use LinkedIn like that. I just felt I had to get your message in front of the proper audience.. And there’s been some great response thus far.

Keep up the good work, man! Even when you tell people how it is, you have a way of doing it that makes us want to take action rather than take pity on ourselves for falling short of goals.

You’re fighting the good fight, Marcus!

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Steve Roy August 18, 2011 at

Marcus,
I love how you turn the questions you get into blog posts. It sounds so simple and yet few are doing it. Everyone is all about keyword research, spending $ on tools like Market Samuari, and getting wrapped up in SEO.

While those things certainly have their place, it still can all boil down to filling the needs of your potential customers. If they want to know why fiberglass pools are more expensive, you write about that exact thing.

I’m going to start incorporating these things into my own blogging. Do you use Google at all to find questions (for ideas) or is it 100% directly from the customers mouths?

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Eugene August 18, 2011 at

That’s actually what caught my attention in this post too. Such a simple technique, but it can be so effective.

I found this tool online, but haven’t used it yet, so I have NO idea how accurate/useful this is: https://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/keyword-questions

But definitely would be great to hear where Marcus pulls his questions from.

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

Yep, I’ve shown that tool in my seminars Eugene, and it’s good, just costs a little bit of money. Not free, but still cheap, and allows for those persons that are kinda lazy brained or out of ideas to get some more phrases.

As far as my questions though, seriously, I just listen very well to clients and make a mental note of every question I’m ever asked that I haven’t written about. Honestly, it’s no more complex than that bud.

Good to see you Eugene, always appreciate your support bud,

Marcus

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Yomar August 19, 2011 at

While the SEO and market research tools are handy, there’s plenty of ways to see what is buzzing about. You have Vark, Quora, LinkedIn, AskReddit, and the list goes on and on.

Of course, as Marcus suggests, the answers, erm, questions may be right in front of us. Twitter search out of the box can be useful if you know what to look for. Cross-reference keywords that bring people to your online content or use tools like Social Flow, MBlast, Klout, or whatever to see what trends are out there.

When I blog these days, a lot of my entries are spawned from recent meetings, discussions, and services rendered.. So I have an endless supply of ideas. Your web site is chock-full of useful stuff, Eugene, so I have no doubt that you are a go-to person for various topics as well.

This all reminds me of the often under-valued roles of SME (Subject Matter Expert) or Knowledge(base) Manager, which aligns well with the fields of customer service, inbound marketing, and training, to name a few. There are plenty of opportunities to help people and bring more value to them.

The hard part is taking the time out to step back and reach out to people.

It’s as simple as saying, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

Isn’t it funny how the simple confound the wise Steve? None of this stuff requires an above average IQ. Just a desire to say things in an honest and open manner.

As far as finding questions, no, I’ve never used Google. Nothing wrong with it, but I’ve trained myself to listen well. If we do, consumers will tell us everything we need to know.

Thanks again bud for the other night, let me know when the podcast comes out and I’ll be sure to make a mention.

Marcus

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Steve Roy August 19, 2011 at

I love that. If we listen well, customers will tell us everything we need to know.

Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. I will let you know when I plan to post it!

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Christian Hollingsworth August 18, 2011 at

I have a big problem with trying to sell yourself too much. Especially if you’re involved in social media, consulting or any form of “relationship” business.

The problem lies in one simple truth. If you take all that time trying to “convince” the other that you’re the right choice – and you’re not enjoying the relationship from the start, then it’s often going to be a relationship full of bitterness and sour tastes.

I often look for and let others find me who just “fit.” If we’re a good match, then we’re a good match – and we’re going to work well together.

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Yomar August 18, 2011 at

That’s so true.. We small businesses need to look at work relationships like dating: if you start off insincere and pretending, you’ll be wasting your time in an unfulfilling relationship.. and that’s not good for anyone!

I agree completely about finding the right-fit folks. Focus on those that really care, not the people you’re trying to force to work out.

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

I’m not sure if selling yourself is the problem Christian, I think it actually comes down to selling yourself the wrong way. I’m actually going to be writing a post on this soon but I see this site as very ‘sales slanted’ in terms of my ‘services’, but it doesn’t come across that way because I talk about my work with clients, and the lessons that are derived from each. Kinda see what I’m saying? Yes, too much ‘bad’ selling is a killer, but too much ‘subtle selling’? Now that’s good stuff, IMO. ;-)

Thanks for dropping by bud, have a great weekend,

Marcus

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Christian Hollingsworth August 19, 2011 at

I think you and Yomar have helped to clarify well. Selling yourself the wrong way, being insincere, etc…all bad ways to start off that relationship.

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Yomar August 19, 2011 at

Certainly, selling has an ugly connotation to it.. Selling, as we’ve come to know it, is dying off.. We’ll still see business entities dumping tons of money in bloated sales forces and inefficient marketing campaigns.. But the rest of us will know how to lead in and just lead, without being pushy or manipulative.

I’m with you here, Christian. I’ve done sales formally and it was not my cup of tea. The Regional Managers and Trainers would always tell us that the customer objects and needs did not matter, we just needed to show them the benefit of the things that, really, they did not need. This was practically everywhere I had to do any sort of selling.

Truth be told, we all sell something even if we’re not “salespeople”. Dating, job hunting, career shifting, writing, singing, cartooning… It’s all selling.

To soften it up and keep myself from feeling dirty, I prefer positioning it as sharing and storytelling. Then I don’t have to bathe myself in bleach when I get home. LOL!

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Walter Pollard August 18, 2011 at

Right on brother!

My own personally belief, with the advent of the internet customer loyalty has suffered in many cases.

Why do I say this, less customer face time. Businesses have a tendency to be less transparent and not as objective in answering customer questions, as they would in person.
Before the evolution of social media online business accountability has suffered through the days of spammie email and generic website content. Than came along Twitter and “Comcast Cares”, and things began to change. All the sudden businesses had to revaluate their online market presence.

The big paradigm shift has occurred with inbound marketing. Companies that lay everything out on the table through compelling content win. This is the game changer.

Marcus – Another great post.

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

Companies that lay everything out on the table through compelling content win. This is the game changer. —Love how you put that Walter. That’s exactly it bud. And it’s a HUGE game changer.

Have a great Friday my friend,

Marcus

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Yomar August 19, 2011 at

Don’t let Dino read “game changer”.. He’s a bit aversive to that phrase… But this is a scenario where it truly applies. The paradigm shift is upon us and has been for a while.. Whether folks choose to embrace it or not is on them. 8)

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Frank August 18, 2011 at

Marcus,

Great stuff. I am a big fan of transprancy as a consumer. It gives me the ability to make an educated decision and do business with people who are using some planned psychological technique to trick me into making a purchase. I think the biggest challenge a lot of businesses face is that they are selling inferior made products in at attempt to protect the bottom line and transparency would kill their business. They cant say that there are 15 companies that do a better job than they do and still close the sale. Why, because their product sucks.

Inbound marketing is the wave of the future and it will get rid of a lot of poser who shouldn’t even be competing in the market place anyway. Great post.

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

Good point Frank. When your product sucks, kinda hard to be transparent. ;-)

But you’re right man, inbound marketing is the future. And people best get on the train or be left behind. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by bud,

Marcus

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Ameena Falchetto August 18, 2011 at

Transparency is always good when you have already hooked the client – an air of ambiguity (as long as it’s just an air) is often good to get that client through the door and then get an opportunity to sell them. I guess what you are being transparent on makes a big difference.

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

It makes a very big difference. Transparency doesn’t mean every website is a free-for-all and the company fires their entire sales staff. It simply means that they tackle issues, good and bad, head on. They address ‘concerns’ before they’re ever even brought up. And they set realistic expectations across the board.

Thanks for dropping by bud. :-)

Marcus

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Frank August 18, 2011 at

Next time I will remember to spell check my email address in my comments so my picture will show. :-)

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Michael Schechter August 18, 2011 at

Two things 1) on your idea of taking your most common questions and writing posts, couldn’t agree more. We do this all the time with pearl questions and it not only helps from the inbound marketing side, but from the CS side when pointing customers to the right reference material. It also reminds me of the new Derek Sivers book, Anything You Want (which I think you would love). Every time his employees had a question, he would stop everyone, walk them through the thinking and determine a policy so that everyone was on the same page and able to make smarter decisions going forward.

2) Utterly agree on the debate as well. It turns to name calling too quickly. Even if someone unintentionally (or even intentionally) steps a toe out of line, it would be nice to see more people trying to keep the debate on the rails rather than pushing the conversation off of them. Just wrote a post between the similarities between the conversations in the political realm and the social. Lot of parallels there…

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

Hmmm Michael, that Sivers book sounds dang good. I’m going to have to check it out.

And regarding debate, I’ve never quite understood why so many get upset. That’s why I’m not in politics—can’t stand all the negative energy. There is a beauty in friendly debate in my opinion. It’s only a shame most will never learn of it.

Thanks for dropping by my friend,

Marcus

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Michael Schechter August 19, 2011 at

That one unfortunately is fairly easy, people prefer to be stubbornly right rather leaving room for the possibly of being wrong.

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Tom Ewer August 18, 2011 at

I love your attitude Marcus. It is often said amongst those in the know that you can’t give away too much free information, and that especially applies to the industry you are in. I.e., no one is likely to go and install a fibreglass pool themselves – they still need someone to do it for them – who better than the company who gives them all the tools they need with which to make an educated decision?

Your “sales technique” is beautiful in its simplicity. Arm the consumer with all the information they could ever desire, then sit back and wait.

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

You’re quite right when you talk about ‘attitude’ Tom. It is certainly that. I give. I teach. I expect them to do their part. And then the magic happens. It’s quite simple at its core, just like you said. No ‘genius techniques’ to remember and practice again and again. Just a willingness to be real and honest.

Thanks a bunch for dropping by bud, I really appreciate it.

Marcus

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john Falchetto August 18, 2011 at

Hey Marcus,

Sales has always been an interesting topic for me. I come from a very traditional business background in a region were cold calling was the way in. The internet penetration was non-existent and our clients weren’t internet friendly.
The only way to get my foot in the door was to pick up the phone and call.

Things have changed. I work online now and you know how much I love inbound marketing and your approach to it.
So what’s going to be, go with the guy who can spit out the most BS or someone who will actually bring some value and educate. The choice is simple :)

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Marcus Sheridan August 18, 2011 at

“So what’s it gonna be??”…I think I need to get TSL T-shirts made with that phrase on the front….and ‘That’s how we roll’ on the back. Not too bad, ehh John? ;-)

Thanks bud,

marcus

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Steve | ROI detector August 19, 2011 at

I wonder if we’ll reach a saturation point of businesses providing information and educating customers. Seems like Marcus has done a great job with the Fiberglass pool domain and there’s limited value in other competitors following suite. Or maybe this isn’t a big deal for companies with service area limitations -IE the Calfornia based Fiberglass pool company can still get a lot of value out of this method.

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

I think it’s possible(but very hard) to saturate in terms of SEO Steve, but it’s impossible to saturate prospects that are on your site looking for your expert opinions on products/services. If they are trying to learn about your product, and you don’t give them answers, then that’s a huge selling/marketing error.

Marcus

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Steve / ROI detector August 20, 2011 at

Good point Marcus. I’ll bet as search engines get smarter, they’ll do a better job of providing results based on location. If someone in California does a search for fiberglass info, they’ll be shown blogs from a company near them. (Assuming it’s quality content of course).

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Richard Scott August 19, 2011 at

When I first started selling 25 years ago, they never talked about transparency. It was keep pushing, don’t take no, after 7 rejections you’ll get the sale. It was all about finding their objections and overcoming them.
I too read everything I could about sales. I still have books on the subject. My favorite was Zig Ziglar. I highlighted text in his book. But my first sales experience was cold calling. THAT WAS NOT FOR ME! I can’t sell water purifiers. lol
One thing I realized quickly was that in order to sell, you need to know your product, stand behind your product and believe in it fully. Your passion and conviction sells. It’s being upfront with people and telling them the truth. Transparency was the key to becoming a successful salesperson. Because today, fake doesn’t fool anyone. :)

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Marcus Sheridan August 21, 2011 at

That’s exactly right Richard, ‘Fake doesn’t fool anyone’. That’s why the company that is willing to teach the most, and be the most ‘real’ in the process (through transparency), is the one that brands themselves and dominates the niche.

Anyway, so great seeing you stop by here Richard and hope to see you again. :-)

Marcus

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Steve | ROI detector August 19, 2011 at

Transparency in pricing by providing education and letting them know what they’re getting up front…absolutely. But I would avoid being too transparent and explaining how you came up with the pricing model. As a customer, I hate not knowing how much something is going to cost or being “nickle and dimed” by every little charge. But I also don’t need to know how/why a company came up with that price. As always, thanks for the thought provoking article!

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Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at

Every company and every definition of ‘pricing’ is different Steve, no doubt. There clearly is no one size fits all answer to pricing explanation. I think the key though is that every company is at least willing to address the question(and any other one that comes through as well).

Appreciate it bud,

Marcus

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Murray Lunn August 19, 2011 at

I rarely even bother with a business, these days, if they don’t have some kind of website, online presence or additional content which I can interact with.

I’m very selective in what I buy because I try to keep my physical items to a bare minimum so when I do go out of my way to pick up and item I want to know it’s coming from a business or individual that cares.

For example, I’ve been picking up indie games because I whole heartily love the support they have shown to their communities rather than the big name companies that seem to be pushing people away through DRM and slimy tricks.

This goes the same for physical items; I try to only buy shirts from individuals on sites like Etsy because they add character beyond the product. This goes on for many other products I buy.

I’m 24, I think my style of buying power is quite common and businesses need to take notice of my generation’s selection instead of trying to bombard us with sales messages.

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Murray, I think this was one of the best and most telling comments of this entire post. You buy from places you form a relationship with–from places that have a ‘story’, from places you trust. And yes, this is the future of buying, especially for the younger generation, so I’m so glad you’ve brought this up.

So appreciate you taking a moment to stop by my friend.

Marcus

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Stuart August 19, 2011 at

This post has come at the right time for me Marcus, as now I’m moving towards setting up my own ‘blog business’, how to promote myself and bring the money in becomes a situation.

Here’s my take – transparency is vital, yet I prefer the term ‘honesty’. I would rather you be honest with me about what something does, what it can’t do, and whether it’s right for me, than pretend that it’s right for me when it actually isn’t. Why should I buy an e-book on how to create a blog when I already have one? Better to buy something on how to develop a blog instead.

These sales techniques that you speak of, I have some experience with them. There’s a little bit of ‘salesy’ talk on my Facebook landing page, but other than that, I try to steer clear of it. As you say, if the value is good enough, people will come to you.

Let’s take a couple of examples, Pat Flynn and Leo Babauta. They have blogs in different niches, they have different levels of popularity, they have different backgrounds, and they have different products on sale. But there’s three things that they both have, that has propelled them to the success they’ve reached:

- They’re passionate about their blogs and their businesses
- They always offer immense value with what they do
- They’re always honest about their work

It’s these three traits that separate them from most other bloggers in the world. You see, you can use every sales techniques in the book (and I’ve seen a few adverts that have tried to squeeze everything in), and it could be polished beautifully. But if you aren’t honest, you aren’t passionate in what you’re selling, and you haven’t offered the best product you can possibly offer, then you can go home because you aren’t going to get anywhere decent.

I’d rather be true to myself Marcus, as I’m sure you agree :-)

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Really cool comment Stu, as always my friend. Like the comparisons of Pat and Leo, and their honesty certainly does shine through every time.

I’m sure this is a subject that’s going to confront you quite a bit now that you’re moving towards the monetization part of your blog, and I very much look forward to seeing how it goes for you my friend.

Have a great weekend my friend.

Marcus

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Melody Giacomino August 19, 2011 at

Marcus

I am in running the social media campaign for my company and it’s been a shift in thinking to make it happen. Here’s the pushback I get on transparency. While you are being transparent to your customers (a great thing) – you are also being transparent to your competitors (not so good)

What I mean by that is many of us work in crowded markets. Trying to differentiate yourself from your competitors by talking about what sets you apart also gives them all the info they need to sell against you. How do you balance that level of disclosure?

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Hi Melody, I love, love, love this question. In fact, as I sit here to answer it, I’m in my mind deciding to write a post about it, so make sure you come back next week and you’ll see it. But for the quick answer, let me just list these:

1. 80/20 rule– Even if everyone knows in your industry that this is a ‘best practice’, 80% wont even do it. ‘You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. I’ve taught this principle to the ENTIRE swimming pool industry at multiple conferences over the past 3 years and do you know what percentage have actually done anything about it? Less than 5%.

2. What’s secretive about answers? When it comes to disclosure, I’ve never understood how companies feel their answers to consumer questions are so ‘sacred’. Folks that feel this are soooooo overestimating the value of their ‘intellectual property’ that it’s not even funny.

3. If a competitor wants to know how you communicate with consumers, it ain’t hard to figure it out. I could go down the list as to how this is done, by I’m sure you’re well of aware of ways to accomplish this.

Hope this helps a little Melody. If you’d like to talk personally about it, I’d love to do that as well, just shoot me your info anytime! :-)

Cheers,

Marcus

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Barbara August 19, 2011 at

I had to chime in here. My very last job in sales was Internet sales for a car dealer. I was out of work and a friend of mine, who had been in the car business forever, told me his boss asked him to start-up this new idea… internet car sales. This was the dark ages of internet car sales… yes I really am 100 years old…*sigh*.

Within 2 months he needed help running it! My first comment to my friend was, “Oh my God how desperate am I? I’m going to sell cars?!” Which I later apologized for because it was pretty much a slam on my friend. He told me that after all his years in car sales he had the skin of an armadillo, not to worry.

I took to this job like a duck to water because it was, and still is, the only way to buy a car and know you aren’t being taken for a ride (pun intended). We got leads from the internet and then would fax the client the actual invoice of the vehicle they were interested in. You can’t do any more than that to strip away all the b-s. In those early days we handled each sale ‘cradle to grave’, meaning we held their hand through it all and even delivered the vehicle.

It’s much more stream lined now and still just as fair and transparent. But my point is this… transparency is the only way to earn trust in sales which has an inherently bad reputation because of sheisters (is that really a word?) who make it so much harder on the honest people trying to do the right thing.
I totally love the way you do business and believe it’s the future of sales.
Thanks Marcus.
b

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Wow Barbara, what a story this was, tremendous comment.

Yeah, the used car biz and sadly at the bottom of the barrel. That’s why I like the CarMax approach. Only certain cars are allowed to be sold (no pre-wrecked, damaged, etc) and there is a bottom line, no hassle price. This model has made them one of the biggest used car companies in the world– all because of transparency.

Great stuff Barbara, thanks again and have a wonderful weekend,

Marcus

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Davina K. Brewer August 19, 2011 at

Ok Marcus, I am just laughing. Why? Because I was late to the party but agreed w/ Shonali on the header being less important; and b/c my speed-read of the pricing post, I agreed as much with Danny as you. (Jumping over there now….. and I’m back, after disagreeing w/ you a little.) I like that we can mix it up like this, it does help as yes I am thinking of these ideas, just my own way.

Now this, I need to do a FAQ or even turn lots of those into blog posts… and in fact, have an idea or 5 a-brewing for future blog posts if I can get them written. Not so much just for SEO (though that won’t hurt), but for the transparent ‘good fit or not’ non-sales tactic. WYSIWYG. I’m all for sharing value and information, educating and informing readers and have been trying to build on that so this will be an interesting experiment. FWIW.

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

I’d love to hear how those 5 or so articles work for you Davina. My gut tells me great. ;-)

And the fact that you kinda disagreed with me about pricing, well, I’m offended and will never speak with you again. ;-)

Hope you’re having an awesome weekend!

Marcusw

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Christina Pappas August 19, 2011 at

Why not is right but companies still will not do it. I have sat in confidential meetings with industry analysts and media contacts and had this question about pricing structure raised on to listen to my executive team make every attempt to thwart and squash it. Why, I asked. Well, the answer regardless of the company seemed to be that the pricing was customized. Now I dont have a pool and have never bought one, but I imagine your pricing to be pretty customized as well, but you still put it out there. Why are we ‘selling’ in the manner that we are technically talking someone into a solution they may not even need. What does this do to our customer referral levels and overall satsifaction? Ever hear of buyer’s remorse? The very fact that that state of mind exists is because someone was talked into something by some snazzy sales person. Why are we selling the solution and convincing them to find budget later?

I spent a lot of time reading sales books as well because as a marketer, I felt I was most effective if I need how sales actually worked. My favorite – and old time goodie – is Solution Selling. I still believe in the concepts described in this book and in fact see a nice relationship co-existing between vendor-agnostic content and this type of sales process.

Im thinking of adding this to my questions during interviews; would you allow me to write a blog post describing the pricing structure?

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Christina, that question in interviews would be epically epic. :-) Seriously, I’d pay big bucks just at a chance to listen to some of the responses!

I remember that book ‘Solution Selling’. It’s a pretty good one, and does in many fit with what we’re talking about here.

Hope the interviews are going GREAT. :-)

Marcus

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Danny Brown August 19, 2011 at

I think we need to be careful when using the word “transparency”, as it has more connotations than just being genuine (which, I feel is a better word).

You can be genuine in everything you do, because that’s how you build trust. Build trust, you build the easier “in” to do business with.

But there will always be some things companies, businesses and people can’t be “transparent” about due to legal issues, responsibilities to stakeholders, NDA’s, etc.

So, the want for transparency is a good one – we just need to make sure we know what we mean when using it.

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Yomar August 19, 2011 at

What’s up, Danny – LTNS! =oD

I was thinking the same thing initially but I got the gist of what Marcus was saying right from the beginning, thanks to the powerful call to action.

You hit upon an important matter and some adjacent issues.. Privacy and anonymity are two things that will always be around, no matter how pervasive the social web becomes. We also have decades of conditioning that has taught us to live private lives, be cut-throat, and/or hide our flaws so that’s hard to battle too.

That said, I think what Marcus says here is doable for everyone. The easiest way to build credibility is to strut your stuff, after all.. Few people will take the gamble to pony up some money just based on your charm or good looks. ;o)

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Don’t disagree with you at all Danny. Obviously, businesses do need to be careful. For me, transparency is this sense solely has to do with consumer questions regarding products or services– it really stops there.

Always appreciate you mate-

Marcus

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David Chism August 19, 2011 at

Marcus:

That has been one of my main focuses this past year! Thank you for writing this blog. I have read a ton of sales books, had sales coaches etc…and customers see right through most of that crap. I want to write a book that I’m calling (hopefully no one steals this title…but hey! free information here it comes)…”The Sales Cleanse.” I want contractors to study and go through the sales system and memorize all the techniques on the planet. Then I want them to go through a Sales Cleanse and let it all go. People buy from people they trust…and with inbound marketing and good blogging etc. we now can educate our potential customers and build trust like never before. Love this post, Marcus. Thanks for making it happen!

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

That, my friend, is an AWESOME book idea and a killer title. Heck, I think I’ll post the rights for it on EBay tonight. ;-)

Seriously though bud, you should do that. It would be awesome and I’d be the first to pre-buy.

Keep spreading the good work David, love the way you think man.

Marcus

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Kimberly Shepherd (@ksaedconsult) August 19, 2011 at

This is great, Marcus! I just started my practice as an independent educational consultant and this is precisely the approach I took when I built my website. I reviewed a hundred or more websites of individuals in my field from around the country and a common theme was the avoidance of pricing on the websites. I know how much I dislike have to “call for a price” so I thought “why not just put pricing on the site?” It also aligns itself to my values of authenticity and respect for others. I like the way you set up appts too and I think I may borrow that approach myself! I look forward to reading more!

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Hi Kimberly!! LOVE your business (education) and love you approach to the web also. I went and checked out your site and found it completely warm, friendly,and well done— so great job!!!

Well I do hope to see you again and keep up the wonderful work on your end. :-)

Marcus

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Maria Talacona August 19, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

I enjoyed this post and couldn’t agree more. I have a sales background, I am in sales currently.
I appreciated that you tell them the truth about products allowing the customer to make a decision based on their needs. This is a great technique within itself.

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Hi Maria, so kind of you to drop in with this comment. And you’re right–telling the truth is a technique within itself. Kinda sad to think about, but very true.

Make sure you come back again Maria, would love to chat more in the future.

Marcus

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Jk Allen August 19, 2011 at

Hey Marcus – I watched one of your vids on youtube last year where you were speaking to some blue-collar pool guys about inbound marketing. You shared the simplistic (and powerful) strategy of creating content based on frequently asked questions. I thought that brilliant. Hadn’t even crossed my mind.

You know how you hear something that sounds really simple but profound and wish you would have thought of it first. That’s how I felt when I watched that video! LOL

immediately understood why it was so important; it builds trust. Transparency builds trust. This gives me what I need to purchase on my own accord. Too often I feel like companies hide certain things and that makes me feel a little uneasy, and often I move on until I get that better gut feeling.

Great post man. You not only rocked this one – but also your GP at Gini’s place.

Have an Awesome weekend my friend.

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Mr. Allen, always a joy my friend, and thanks for the kind words regarding this and Gini’s post. Always fun to hang out at her house.

I really like what you said about ‘gut feelings’. In fact, that might be one of the only ‘sales techniques’ I still use. After having worked with a client for a while, if they’re still on the fence, I’ll often ask, “What’s your gut tell you?” In my experience, ‘the gut’ always leans towards the transparent. ;-)

Have a great weekend my friend.

Marcus

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Freya Shipley August 19, 2011 at

It’s great to hear you saying this so transparently. Traditional sales techniques simply don’t work on me, which means I can’t stand the idea of inflicting them on anyone else. I don’t think I’ve *ever* made a purchase because of an ad, and I really don’t understand the mind-set of anyone who would. So for me, copywriting is all about inbound marketing. Loud cheers!!

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Hi Freya! So glad you enjoyed this post and loved what you said at the end– Copywriting is all about Inbound Marketing— Yes, Yes, Yes!!

Have a wonderful weekend Freya!

Marcus

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Jack @ TheJackB August 22, 2011 at

I have sold many different products because of the ad that I wrote. It provided the consumer/customer/prospect (call them what you want) with enough information to entice them to come visit our company and learn about what we had to offer.

There was nothing slick or misleading about any of it.

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anthony lee August 20, 2011 at

Wow.
When I entered the game of content marketing, I had a newsletter on the most effective sakes techniques I had come across in my experience. I participated in countless training calls and read articles, newsletters and books to fuel my creative resources.
This is by far the most effective “technique” I’ve come across. If I’d read this 8 months ago, my newsletter would likely have been one autoreponse with a link to this article.
Which brings me to my question.
How do you get people to ASK you questions so you can answer them?

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Anthony, what a kind comment man. Thanks so very much.

Regarding the ‘questions’ part, that happens naturally. If you’re selling anything, whether it’s a product or service, you have to field questions. Those question come via phone calls, emails, face-to-face, etc. It’s all a matter of listening, that’s all.

So great of you to drop by Anthony, hope I’ll be seeing more of you sir. ;-)

Marcus

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Jens P. Berget August 20, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

I absolutely agree with you. This reminds me of an interesting experience I had this summer. As you might now, I spend my summer vacation in a tent (close to 5 weeks). My family and I are vacationing at a camping spot, where there are no electricity and the facilities are fairly old-fashioned if I can use that word. There are showers, but I wouldn’t use them (the water is not what you’d expect, and it’s not exactly clean), and the toilets are even worse (it’s not water closets, I’m not going to go into further details, but you get my point). I know all this, because I’ve spent the past four years at this camping spot… and I’m very happy, because it’s perfect when it comes to nature, and my kids are happy. That’s what matters.

But, about a month ago, I saw to women with babies. They had put up a tent, and it was just the mothers and their two babies. They were camping for a few days. I saw them walk with their small babies and it seemed that they had a wonderful time. But, when I woke up the day after, they were gone. The tent was gone, and I couldn’t see them anywhere. I asked some of the people I know what happened. And they said that the women had called the person running the camping before they decided to come and set up the tent, and asked about the showers, the toilets and if they had a room where the could change diapers (and wash) their babies. The owner of the camping said yes of course, without letting them know what to expect. No wonder why the women were shocked and drove back home before I had woken up :)

My point is, transparency is very important. Customers should always know what to expect. Transparency will not only make the selling easier, but it will create a strong relationship.

Jens

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Marcus Sheridan August 20, 2011 at

Jens, absolutely awesome comment here. I’ve enjoyed all these stories about your vacation and I’m sure the experiences you had over those 5 weeks will stick with your children forever.

Great example about those two mothers as well. Sounds like the owner of the place doesn’t know who his target audience is, and thus is making false claims–which is a quick road to nowhere.

Always sincerely appreciate it when you stop by Jens, have a great weekend.

Marcus

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Al Smith August 20, 2011 at

Another great one, Marcus. Took me awhile to get here. To me, it’s like we have moved past the old way of selling, but yet, what you are saying is so basic and simple, it should be common sense. Does that make any sense ?

We always hear; People buy from people they know, like and trust. What you are saying (Ithink) and I believe to be true as well is; People buy from people who ask questions, LISTEN well and provide VALUE added solutions. Like you said, the customer is “simply looking for a voice they can trust”. Enough with all the BS.

I’m with ya on the t-shirts “What’s it gonna be ? BS or Value ? Your choice.

Love it. Thanks for CARE-ing.

Al

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Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at

Enough with all the BS….what a slogan, ehhh Al?

Love your thoughts and words my CARE-ing friend. Keep doing your thing and thanks for all.

Marcus

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Ana | how to build a list August 21, 2011 at

Marcus, I use the same approach that you use. I ask questions, I engage and I listen to what my readers want. I feel that the interaction is so important in making our blogs popular and you’re right – that’s more effective than all the SEO.

Keep up the good attitude!

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Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at

Thanks for that Ana. Yes, you do a tremendous job ‘talking’ and listening with your readers. People sense that….and boy does it go a long ways!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Marcus

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Marianne Worley August 22, 2011 at

Hey Marcus,

Sorry I’m late to this party–just now catching up with my reading and commenting. As a result of reading this post and the one over at Gini’s (and the one I wrote at Ginis!), I’ve decided to test out putting some price ranges and project sizes on my website. I’ll let you know how it goes! :-)

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Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at

Awesome Marianne!! Seriously, I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you, and also how you leverage your pricing page when it comes to qualifying as well. Good luck and thanks so much for dropping by!!

Marcus

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Jack @ TheJackB August 22, 2011 at

Marcus, I appreciate what you are saying and agree with being open and honest but I don’t think that there is anything wrong with using sales techniques to conduct business.

Sales technique is not equivalent to misleading prospects, but that is neither here nor there.

A good salesman doesn’t have to fool someone into buying their product/service. They just have to listen to the needs of the prospect and then explain how their company can provide the solution to whatever challenge the prospect is facing.

Most of the bad salespeople that I have encountered don’t listen well, can’t tell the story of their company and lose the deal almost immediately.

And while I agree with you about pricing the more complex deals can’t be outlined on a website. It is not because of lack of desire but because there are too many variables to be covered.

So the best you can do is provide an educated guestimate. That is part of why Danny’s comment about being genuine is so important. Establish trust, build a relationship and get the opportunity to put together a proper estimate.

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Elena Patrice August 22, 2011 at

Hi Marcus!

Well, transparency is one of my all time faaaavorite words!! We’ve touched on this and I think that is truly the key to sincerity and therefore success! When you come from a place of honesty and openness, there should be no fear and you can then be totally transparent. To worry about competition or anything of the like puts you in a place that is fearful and a limiting mentality. I think of in terms of folding your arms (like holding or keeping information to yourself or at bay) – you block things out and can’t put in or carry more. However, when your arms are open or free moving (allowing information and ideas to flow back and forth, in and out) there’s so much that occurs and you’re more filled and open to the world around you.

I’m oblivious maybe, but I stay true to what’s in my heart and my conviction – my deal is to help small businesses and other entrepreneurs in the most sincere, honest way I can; to me anything less takes far greater effort.

I relate so well to your style Marcus and you have no idea how inspiring you are to countless! Don’t ever change … the world would be missing something rare and great indeed!

Much kindness,

Elena

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Marcus Sheridan August 22, 2011 at

You make a guy feel really, really good Elena. Your comments are always so thoughtful, and I just hope you know how much I appreciate you taking the time to be so kind.

And I think your business model and approach are awesome. With your attitude and resilience Elena, there’s only success in your future. :-)

Marcus

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Gloria August 24, 2011 at

I just climed into the new social media chair at a great company. We’re unique in that we’re straightforward, honest, and fun to work with in a very serious and stressful industry. Our customers sing our praises all the time.
The thought of blogging makes me very uneasy. We work with brilliant and diverse healthcare professionals. It’s hard to think of myself as an expert on something of interest to them.
This blog gives me inspiration and hope. I am an expert at helping customers navigate cooperation with our company. I’ve developed that expertise over the last 4-5 years helping customers by email and by phone.
Thank you for keeping it simple. With respect to creating content based on customer questions, I feel like I’ve been missing the forest for the trees. I can totally relate to JK Allen’s post, “You know how you hear something that sounds really simple but profound and wish you would have thought of it first.”
I hope my boss agrees.

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Gloria August 24, 2011 at

Now I understand what the website and comment luv is about… oops.

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James Hussey September 4, 2011 at

Marcus –

Absolutely agree. Transparency can be seen in the top blogs, in my mind, like Pat Flynn’s at SmartPassiveIncome or Glen Allsopp’s at ViperChill.

I used to own a franchise selling face to face with business owners – the game was all about one sales closing technique after another. There’s some takeaway value in that, but by and large, content marketing as an affiliate marketer – I’m there to answer questions.

I don’t like the gimmicks (false scarcity, urgency when there isn’t any, or hyped value) nor do consumers – but give an honest word and you’ll make sales.

Keep doing it and you’ve got an audience who wants to buy from you again and again. Screw it up and you’re mincemeat.

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Andrea January 23, 2012 at

Well, I haven’t read this article before as I came here around December but this is great Marcus. Actually I don’t like much having to give my email or other information before getting an ebook or reports as I prefer to read first and than if the stuff is good to subscribe. Well, that’s not such of a problem as I immediately unsubscribe if the stuff is poor or written for the sake of affiliate links.

For the same reason I hate when stores or people do not state upfront clearly their prices and I either have to ask or I’m fooled around with thousands words just to be hit at the end with the price. I prefer to have honest details clear and immediately without fluff. If your products are honestly priced than you don’t need too many words for me to buy them, right? Clear and short honest description of the product with the price, that’s the way to go for me.

Your approach to sales should become standard but probably and unfortunately there are not so many lions out there. :)

And now let’s have a look at that article on website’s pricing.

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