Old fashioned selling techniques are the ‘latest’ marketing trend

“I mean the future has become old fashioned.” – Baz Luhrmann


The digital marketing world is fast, measurable, dynamic, exciting and (apparently) ‘the place to be’ for all modern businesses (if you believe the social media consultants)!  But, in truth, it’s not very effective at helping build sales or growth in a business without a wider strategy in place!

The primary benefits of the modern digital marketing platforms is the ability to identify prospects and to make more ‘noise’.  Both these outcomes are certainly helpful but not the end result unless you know how to convert a prospect or lead into a client – this is where old fashioned selling techniques come into their own!

In truth, ‘digital marketing’ is an umbrella term for marketing that’s done utilising the internet (your website, emails, social presence, etc) … but these are merely communication channels that are modern replacements for the same things we did 30 years ago … your website is the digital equivalent of your brochure, your emails replace direct mail (remember stamps?), your social platforms replace PR and networking.

In a previous article, we wrote about the importance of the follow up to your digital marketing and this is frequently based on picking up the phone and talking to a prospect that your digital marketing has identified.

But … recently, ‘genuinely old fashioned’ sales & marketing techniques have started to be used again because they’re ‘new’ to the current generation and actually mean you can stand out against the digital noise on the internet.

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You may also observe a number of sales training organisations now also starting to focus on old fashioned selling techniques – training a new generation of salespeople on old school subjects like body language, sales closing techniques, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and many more.

Another recent observation was a pub in Swaledale actively embracing ‘old fashioned’ values to form their ‘point of difference’ against the modern pubs (with their massive wall-to-wall TV screens constantly showing sport channels, free WiFi and a total lack of community) … in Swaledale, they offer no connectivity apart from the bar area where the landlord is happy to chat with you on the local issues (and that days weather!), no sport apart from darts or skittles and a firm foothold in the local community!  Tourists now actively seek out the ‘old fashioned’ as an ‘experience’ whilst the locals continue to enjoy a pub for what they believe it should be!

Some examples or suggestions of old fashioned selling techniques would include:

The power of a brochure

Brochures never went out of fashion with customers but suppliers started cutting costs by putting their brochures online, on their website.  Of course, brochures are expensive to design and costly to print but with modern thinking, perhaps you could create a modular brochure (folders and inserts) rather than a wieldy booklet … then when something is out of date, you only replace one tiny part of the brochure rather than the whole thing.

Additionally, with the advent of modern printing methods that allow ‘short runs’, you no longer need to print thousands to achieve a reasonable price.  You can even personalise each brochure to a prospect these days. Printed brochures are powerful selling and reference tools for your customers – have you cut too many costs in your business when a printed brochure would help you stand out from your competitors?

The post-it-note trick

If your digital marketing has identified a potential sales prospect, one challenge you face is ‘how’ to follow this up.  Simply calling them and explaining that you’re calling because you noticed that they clicked on a link in your email is a little too ‘stalker-like’ for most people!  So, the technique we’ve seen performed to great effect is to send the prospect a brochure in the post and then follow this up with a call (as the posted brochure essentially gives you ‘permission’ to follow up to ‘see if it’s of interest’).

Clearly, if your digital marketing is working correctly, you only actually send these brochures out to genuine prospects but the reality is that simply posting a brochure with a compliment slip results in it being binned 70% of the time.  HOWEVER … sending a brochure with a genuine hand written note on a post-it-note stuck to the front cover and a hand written envelope will pretty much guarantee you that the prospect won’t bin your brochure and therefore you’ll achieve a better response on the follow up calls.

The buzz bomb

Most businesses have ‘dream prospects’ who, if only they could win the business of the prospect, would be sufficient to transform their fortunes.  The problem with these dream prospects is that you simply can’t get to talk to the right person – they’re normally guarded by receptionists who field your calls and throw your brochure away before your prospect even knows you tried!

The buzz bomb is a mechanism to attempt to create such a buzz in their office that you bypass the gatekeepers and impress the main contact to the point that they ensure your call gets through.

Firstly, you have to come up with a relevant ‘gift’ that is normally eye catching and impressive.  This can be ‘quirky’ (so a miniature ceramic bath from a bathrooms company) or ‘clever’ (a touch screen tablet from a web designer) but it is almost certainly going to cost a lot – so buzz bombs are only for the highest value prospects.

You need to surround the gift with a clever promotional message … so using the above ideas, the bath might be a challenge to the recipient to come up with the most novel use for it, the tablet might contain a 30 second video (max!) on the home screen with a request to watch the video but keep the tablet as a gift regardless.  It’s also good to also insert your normal brochure too – but make it less prominent.

Ideally, you would arrange for some nice branded packaging to present these items in a great way – and hold them safe in transit.  But then, wrap it all up with generic brown paper, hairy string (if you can find it) and hand write the name and address and use proper stamps for the postage (and take it to the Post Office to get special delivery, but remember the stamps are important!).

Obviously, on receipt, the gatekeepers won’t dare open this package because, to them, it looks like the decision maker has ordered something online … so it is placed on the desk of your prospect for them to open personally.  Now, think about the anticipation for your prospect – they rarely receive packages, they don’t know what it is and it doesn’t look like marketing material so it takes priority – if you’ve got the goodies right, they should be impressed and enjoy the ‘experience’ of receiving it.  Even better, they recognise the effort you’ve put in and show it to their gatekeepers (the buzz is then working) and, hey presto, your bomb has gone off.  If you call 24 hours later, you’ve got a very high chance of speaking to the prospect and arranging a meeting.

Yes, buzz bombs are expensive but winning one dream client can make it all worthwhile.

The retail ‘experience’

In the intro above, we mentioned the pub in Swaledale actively using the ‘old-fashioned environment’ to create a point of difference compared to modern pubs.  In the modern world where ‘everyone buys online’, physical shops are under threat and the ones succeeding are those that provide an amazing customer experience AS WELL AS a buying opportunity.

Think of the book shop that now contains a coffee shop – the premise being, spend some time here and browse at your leisure.  There’s a small chain of high-end cyclists shops where they actually call the shops ‘clubhouses’ and go out of their way to provide a club / community feeling once you’re in there (and they happen to have a few racks of beautiful cycling kit at premium prices while you’re there).

Many retailers are embracing the merging of digital and traditional, with their websites allowing consumers to browse by day and then call in to ‘try it on’ at night, on their way home.  The retailers websites actively promote this approach and recommend special nights when they’re open late for their special customers who’ve registered online!

Simply ‘fighting’ the digital world (or worse still, ignoring it) will simply ruin a retail business so think about how you can create a special experience to generate footfall into your building – we all know that if you can pull customers into your shop, you’ll sell them more than if you simply allow them to buy online!

The growth of networking organisations

Word-of-mouth has always been a standard mechanism for sales and new business development and, of course, Facebook and LinkedIn aim to create communities (social and business) that you can use to facilitate word-of-mouth opportunities – but the problem with anything digital is its ‘ephemeral’ nature and the truth is, most people who try to use social platforms for their business have extremely shallow relationships with their connections or so-called friends.

However, genuine, face-to-face networking has never been more popular and with new organisations sprouting up offering slightly different formats (ladies groups, structured groups, relaxed groups, niche industry groups, etc) there’s a meeting to suit everyone.  So, if you want to build your network of connections, go networking on a sustained and regular basis.  We’ve also written an article on hints and tips for networking success so take a look at this to see some helpful advice.

If you’re looking to really stand out from the crowd, consider the old fashioned selling techniques that businesses used 30 years ago – fashion is always cyclical and it’s time to get old fashioned!

Straight talking on Old fashioned selling techniques from Yorkshire Powerhouse
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Registered address: Unit 14 New Mills Brougham Road, Marsden, Huddersfield, England, HD7 6AZ