The salesmanship of influencer marketing

Coffee is for Closers Only

If you’re doing influencer marketing right, you’ll have a lifetime relationship with your influential.  And, like any family member or friend, relationships require consistent and attentive attention.

Likewise, if you’re selling high ticket items, especially products and services that require new contracts, new leases, refills, upgrades, or are pricey and powerful but highly commoditized, then you need to go well beyond simply selling widgets.

Every sale is an engagement ring that you’ve put on your prospect’s finger. The best salespeople in the world are wed to each and every one of their accounts. And, like marriage, you need to be on board for way longer than the honeymoon.

The best salesman I know is Michael Obraitis. We’ve been friends since Freshman year at GWU and he’s been selling ever since, from executive laptops sitting atop Grecian columns to hosting, bandwidth, networking, and telecom services to language-learning platforms. He’s become my mentor and I, his protégé.

He told me that the real money is in the long run. That most first-buys are tentative. That once trust is built and the relationship goes from initial excitement and newness, it’s all about showing up and doing what you say you’ll do. Only then does that magic happen. Only then, when lust turns to love, can your sales relationship grow through upsells, referrals, recommendations, and company-wide, federated, commitments and conversions. From a thousand seats to ten-thousand, from one site of ten-thousand seats to ten sites, to a hundred.

One might call it the network effect — or the bandwagon effect: “The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon whereby the rate of uptake of beliefs, ideas, fads and trends increases the more that they have already been adopted by others. In other words, the bandwagon effect is characterized by the probability of individual adoption increasing with respect to the proportion who have already done so.”

And that doesn’t happen by itself. It happens through engagement, persistence, connection, and trust. And, no matter how much momentum your network or bandwagon effect achieves, rationally, carefully, or irrationally through fad, it takes time, attention, friendliness, and a personal, human, touch — and a good, solid, innovative, reliable, and extensible product, of course — to keep folks in the network and on the bandwagon for months, years, and even decades.

It never comes down to price-per-seat or the discount offered by any one widget, it comes down to people, to relationships, to meeting needs, to solving problems, and to being responsive to needs and changes.

If you’re doing it right, there’s no difference between being a top salesman and a top PR man.  What works in high-end sales works in high-end PR. Neither sales nor PR, especially influencer marketing, which is really influencer PR, can ever afford to be fire-and-forget.

Rather, both sales and PR are wire-guided, requiring keeping one’s eye on the target from the moment of first engagement all the way through the life of the relationship.

Unlike cold-calling or direct-mail “spray and pray,” picking up the phone or walking into an office’s reception is only analog to pulling the trigger. There’s lots of stuff going on before and after.

Before, there’s extensive autodidacticism required to become functionally literate in the prospects’ industry, their products and services, and their slang, buzzwords, acronyms, and corporate jargon.

Then, there’s your backgrounders, your scripts, your message models, your conditional if-thens, and some of the best even run rehearsals, attempting to channel their very best Konstantin Sergeievich Stanislavski.

With the confidence to being both method and rehearsed, the elite salesman (and PR man like) will have the answers to at least 80% of the defensive questions and query walls that any potential prospect might have without needing to back down into, “let me check and get back to you.”

The best salespeople and pr agents are empowered to improvise and adapt.  This is well above the pay grade of the traditional sales pressure-cooker.

Then, there’s the deep research and reconnaissance required to both discover and acquire your targets. Then there’s the search for common-ground and possible people-in-common (it’s always easier to connect with someone through friends, colleagues, fans, clients, and confidants).

Finally, there’s the choice of your tools. Which club to choose from the bag. Or, to continue in the same analogy, what’s your missile?  Are you going to get dressed in your finest big boy suit and buffed and burnished briefcase? Are you going to pick up the phone and dance through the wires?

Do you plan to write the perfect pitch and send them out by hand? Are you going to dance the light fantastic amongst your connections of LinkedIn? Maybe cruise some Groups or even engage folks via Twitter and Facebook. Will you collect a dozen, a hundred, a thousand into a list and send your perfected and scrutinized pitch email via Yet Another Mail Merge or Contactually?

They’re all sound ways, especially if you start with one then try another. Walk to the offices, see if you can make magic in person, then follow up with a call, “hey, I dropped by,” and then pop a note via email and then another one a couple weeks later. Then another a couple weeks after that.

When you finally make that love connection, schedule a call or webcast or screenshare or desktop-share or demo, then you’re cooking with gas. And, even after you make the sale, ring the bell, countersign the contract, and get your first royalty check, spending it on a congratulatory bourbon, that’s simply your wedding day, the anniversary date of your marriage.

After the blush drains from your cheeks, after all the wedding gifts have been returned and re-gifted, there’s the “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part” that you really must respect, follow, and deliver.

It’s not about widgets sold, it’s not about backlink SEO, it’s not about a positive review on Yelp or the best unboxing or YouTube review, it’s about building equity over time. It’s about a partnership. And it’s about growing together into the future, even after you have both left your positions.

Never forget that all those people on your spreadsheet are not simply bunny-slipper-wearing basement trolls like you may have stuck in your mind, but they’re beautiful children of God who are not only who they are or who they have been, they’re also who they will become and what they will become.

Firing-and-forgetting is a terrible idea. You want to keep that wire connected for as long as you both shall shall wish. It doesn’t always work out but the moment you start treating people like widgets or commodities, you’re not long for this earth, be it the world of sales or the world of PR.


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