by Susan Russo
I know it’s happened to you too. You’ve had a busy day and you have a simple question. Maybe you want to know what your account code is to pay your electric bill or you need some tech support. Either way, all you want is to speak with a representative, a human being. You press “0” once, twice, three times, four times and then that snarky machine voice foils your desperate attempt to “Speak with a representative” and instead says “Press star to repeat these menu options.” You sigh, exhale and hang up.
But, machines aren’t the only ones providing frustrating, automated responses. In an age of increasing speed and convenience, it’s easy for people to tune out and go on auto-pilot. When it comes to successful selling, the “auto-pilot” function should be turned off. Here are five steps to drive sales and client satisfaction through better listening skills:
Don’t Know it All: Don’t go into a meeting with pre-conceived ideas or push pre-packaged solutions.
Ask Questions: Sometimes a simple question such as “How is business?” can spur a real dialogue.
Identify Pain Points: This is where the magic happens. Pay attention to any challenges your customer or prospect is facing.
Don’t One-Size, Customize: Whether you’re providing a product or a service, customization is king. If you don’t have a capability, find a partner and make it happen.
Flex: Your approach, not your muscles (calm down Schwarzenegger). Seriously- be flexible. Set metrics that are in line with your customer’s goals and don’t be afraid to change course as needs and landscape evolve. The world isn’t static, and neither should your approach be.
What companies do you think do a great job of “listening”? I’m all ears.
Susan Russo is a Senior Manager at ABI marketing public relations. You can reach her at +1 (212) 529 2635 and email@example.com.
By Alexandra Harrod
A recent brainstorm with some of my colleagues got me thinking about creativity, and more specifically the creative process. Here at ABI, particularly when we are putting together a proposal for a new client or developing a campaign for existing clients, we’ll get a team together to generate initial ideas and begin to build a strategy that meets their needs – the final result or idea we present may be very different to the concepts or thoughts we come up with in that first discussion, but I firmly believe that you would never have one without the other.
When I first started in PR and marketing, I remember brainstorms as one of the most terrifying aspects of the job – I was nervous to say something “silly” or “impractical”, and, of course, was still learning about the tools of this dynamic trade…so I tended to say very little. Very quickly I discovered that the best brainstorms take place between groups of people that aren’t afraid to speak up – no matter how kooky, out-there or different the ideas they share sound. If you think about it, what’s the worst that could happen? Often the response is “not quite, but you have hit on one point that’s really interesting” and from there your idea takes shape in the direction best suited to the objectives of the business you’re working with at the time.
To shape a really strong, impactful campaign within the B2B sector, whether it’s a 2 month launch for a new product or a year-long programme of public relations and marketing activity, you need a number of things: an understanding of your client’s objectives and business aims, knowledge of the industry they operate it in, and an expert team of people that will work closely with you to achieve your aims. But equally as important, and sometimes ignored on the corporate and B2B side of communications, a debate I’ve read a lot about lately on industry hubs such as the Holmes Report (http://creativity.holmesreport.com/): you need creativity.
Sometimes the old adage, “It’s not the destination but the journey” really does ring true. One method I have come across for getting a team to approach a campaign in a new way is “flying to the land of absurdity” – bear with me, it will make sense! The idea is simple: remove the constraints that we are usually held back by: remove budget considerations, any concern of people’s initial reactions, any thoughts of “Oh no, that client would never go with that idea”, remove corporate guidelines and any other elements that might impose restrictions before you have even started. And simply think: If I had unlimited budget, unlimited time, unlimited resources and a client with an open mind…what would I do? The results will range from the absurd, to the amusing, to the ridiculous. But more often than not, having spent ten minutes doing this at the start of the brainstorm, you will end up with one or two ideas that could be pared down and polished into something great that not only meets your client’s objectives, but wows them.
So pack your passport outside the box, load your luggage with original ideas, and jet off to the land of absurdity. You ever know what you might pick up in the crazy duty-free shop en route home. It may well be a better idea than if you’d never left the airport lounge in the first place.
Alexandra Harrod is a Manager at ABI marketing public relations. You can reach her at +44 (0) 207 014 3317 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
By James Lisk
Being fairly new to ABI, it’s really exciting for me personally to be part of a team that is getting some great industry recognition for its work.
And I am thrilled to be the one to the share the news that ABI was recently honored for “Best Green Initiative” at the first annual PR Daily Awards luncheon, held in Washington, D.C.
Our team was recognized by PR Daily for its pivotal role in the development of the 2011 Sustainability Report for Crown Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCK), a leading supplier of innovative metal packaging technology to consumer products companies worldwide.
Even more amazing is that the report was the first of its kind for Crown.
We structured the report using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G3 Guidelines and aimed to show how sustainability has been a fundamental part of Crown’s business model historically and will be into the future.
As you can imagine, it would have been easy to get lost in data, but we took a visual approach to telling Crown’s story, and mixed a macro view together with some specifics.
Congratulations to Crown and all the honorees at this year’s PR Daily Awards. And an especially big “WOOT!” to my colleagues on the Crown account team for all their hard work!
James Lisk is a Senior Account Manager at ABI marketing public relations. You can reach him at +1 212-529-2542 and email@example.com.
By Eoin Bedford
Packaging doesn’t always get the respect that it deserves. Although we engage with it every day – picking it up, opening it, using it and then throwing it away – its inherent disposability has meant that some cynics portray it as providing little of benefit while proving damaging for the environment. This bad rap (pardon the pun) has often placed packaging manufacturers on the defensive, making it harder for them to communicate about their products, although things have changed quickly in this last decade.
As brand owners seek to enhance their green credentials by ensuring that each step of the production and packaging line is as sustainable as possible, packaging manufacturers have been quick to highlight the environmental benefits provided by their packaging. Biodegradability, recyclability and sustainably sourced materials have all been brought to the fore by packaging suppliers. As the concept of sustainability has become firmly anchored in the public consciousness, the themes of efficiency and efficient packaging are now taking off, as packaging firms seek to further demonstrate and measure the benefits provided by their solutions.
By enabling the preservation of products for longer, by reducing risks of contamination, by making it easier to keep and consume products wherever the end user is, efficient packaging brings measurable benefits to our societies. These are sorely needed, as experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that as much as 40 percent of available food products spoils before reaching consumers’ mouths in developing countries and about 30 percent of food purchased in Europe is thrown away without being consumed, often due to passing best-before dates (Global Food Losses and Food Waste Report, 2011). As efficient new types of packaging with continue to emerge to extend product lives and protect product quality, fewer products should be wasted or thrown into landfills needlessly.
At the same time, efficient packaging initiatives have helped brand owners to greatly reduce the energy usage involved in producing, packaging and transporting their products. This has been achieved in a variety of ways, from upgrading old packaging machines to newer and more efficient models, using new technologies that can seal or wrap packaging at lower heats or with less energy, as well as light weighting existing packaging solutions to ensure they are easier and less energy-intensive to transport. Through combining these efforts with projects to reduce CO2 emissions, packaging firms have even more facts supporting their contribution to making our society a little bit better.
For many firms, the key to successful communications is all about creating a dialogue with their audience. Packaging firms are now in a strong position to open that discussion with both consumers and brand owners, reminding them of the essential and efficient role that packaging plays in our modern society. Efficiently designed packaging plays a vital role in keeping us safe and healthy, while minimizing the impact on the environment of our consumer lifestyles and the packaging that goes along with them.
Eoin Bedford is a Senior Account Manager at ABI marketing public relations. You can reach him at +44 (0)20 7014 3316 and firstname.lastname@example.org.