Sales and Marketing

How Slanted Is Your View of Customer Loyalty?

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Rank the following in terms of what drives the highest level of customer loyalty:

Price, Product, Process, People

Most companies and people in sales behave as though Price comes first and People are last.

Here's how they look at it:

1. Price: Customers care first and foremost about our price. Therefore marketing must center around sales and discounts. Likewise, selling depends on sacrificing margins, therefore we'll adjust the sales plan.

2. Product: After price, customers want bells, whistles, quality, choice, and customization. Competitors are advancing their products through R&D and so must we!

3. Process: If price is low and our products are good, customers will put up with our crappy website, slow delivery, computerized phone system, and 10 page invoices. After all, we don't have time or the money to improve how we do business right now.

4. People: We say it's our people that make us great, but truthfully our turnover is high, our salaries are low, our expertise is lower, and our training is non-existent. We're ultimately focused on a few people - our stakeholders - who exhaust us with their demands for higher productivity, longer hours, and lower prices.

Have you witnessed this kind of backwards thinking? How about in your own thinking?

I'm a self-marketer. I believe in the power of the individual to create a steel-braided bond of customer loyalty. Customers, whether they're aware of it or not, seek out professionals they believe in and become loyal to. Empowered, honest, smart, likable salespeople are a sign of a great company. When a buyer finds their person, they trust that all the other "P's" will eventually follow, fall in line, or fail to matter.

The true hierarchy of customer loyalty is:

1. People: Where I go, my customers follow because they know I'm committed to excellence. My dedication, expertise and our friendship will be the last things that fail them.

2. Process: Our products may not fit everyone, but they're easy to evaluate, try, buy, and they're delivered on time. High experience. Low frustration. Customers build their processes around ours.

3. Product: We may not have the widest features or selection, but we believe in our products and we're fully trained to answer any question and offer custom ideas for everything we sell.

4. Price: We're not the lowest, because our value is the highest. Our customers agree, we've earned our high margins and they don't mind paying them. Not everyone can afford us, but they wish they could.

At the beginning, notice I didn't say companies necessarily "believe" that people come last in building customer loyalty. They "behave" as though they do. Big difference. If you read their brochures, small, medium, and big companies all boast that their people are their strength. But by focusing on price and not the customer's experience through their people and their processes, they prove they're just like the rest - low value commodities. When your people are invaluable consultants and your processes become the industry standard that make life easy, customers find a way to afford you.

Final note: What about companies who say their industry has been commoditized and no matter what they do customers will always buy low price? There are 2 responses to this:

1. When a possibility has never been witnessed, impossibility is assumed. Just because you've never seen anyone in your "commodity" business rise above the price wars to command a margin and establish loyalty doesn't mean it can't be done. PC's are considered a commodity, but Apple still leads PC sales with high margin laptops. Their prices are the highest, their products are great but don't do everything, buying through their website and retail stores is the industry standard, and their top execs are household names. Zappos became one of the greatest success stories in the online "commodity" apparel world because of their easy return process and world class customer support. Stop blaming the impossible. Be the first in your industry.

2. If your industry is so locked up in regulation and limitation that the human side and relationship opportunity have all but been removed as factors, I challenge you that it may be time to consider changing industries. Price wars drain the joy of serving, the pride of being the best, and your natural need to be useful and make a difference. Sometimes, the grass IS greener on the other side.

How do you look at it?

Let's open the discussion. Agree? Add your insight. Disagree? Challenge my model with your comments below. You can be sure I'll respond.

Want to agree or disagree with me more? Sure you do! Follow me on Twitter

Never Say "Open the Attachment" (Updated)

The next time you send an email with a file attached, avoid instructing your recipient to "open the attached file." Such instructions are now a red flag to do the exact opposite. Viruses cloaked as harmless email attachments have ruined countless computers and devices in a single click. To many, clicking any email attachment is no longer worth the risk.

So, how do you get your recipients to open your attachments so your sales and projects can move forward?

You stop using attachments. You start providing download links.

Upload your files to a well-known, free file-hosting service like, Dropbox or Box. Then, paste the public download link to your file into your email.

Advantages: 

  • Recipients feel more safer clicking to receive your file
  • You're not filling up their inboxes storage with attachments
  • Download clicks are trackable so you know when to follow up!

Here's an example how to handle it:

"Tom, please download the Word file from Dropbox to review the outlines of our milestones for the month."

or...

"Nancy, here's the Excel spreadsheet (Dropbox download) with our detailed proposal."

When you follow this tip, your files will be opened more frequently, you'll have a new window into recipient engagement (via click tracking), you'll naturally get more responses, and fewer recipients will wonder if opening your attachment will require a trip to their dreaded IT department.

New Feature Sneak Peek: Message Library

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For a while, you've been able to clone, save, and share your messages in Ace of Sales. Helpful. But we've received a stream of requests for improved message management. You asked for: + The ability to categorize your saved messages + The option to create your own categories + A visual preview to more easily select messages + A library of messages we write and design for you

Requests granted!

Early December, look for my announcement of our beta roll out of the new Message Library. It will be a new main tab in your account automatically added for you (no download required).

The Message Library will be filled with dozens of completed messages you can purchase for $1.99 and use immediately. It's like the iTunes of business messages.

We'll have pre-written, pre-designed messages for thank yous, hellos, follow ups, birthdays, and much more. Look for our special messages for December holidays and New Years. You'll be able to choose messages for both email and printed cards.

More information coming next week, but I wanted to give you a morsel to start digesting along with those delicious Thanksgiving dishes.

Are You a "No-Show" After Trade Shows

Everybody’s heard the dismal stats: Fewer than 20% of sales leads gleaned from trade shows ever get a follow-up. In fact, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research says:

  • The #1 goal of trade show marketers is generating leads.
  • The #1 problem is lead follow-up.

Why spend precious time squeezing more business from existing customers while overlooking prime opportunities with 80% of your fresh new leads? Did you know that 90% of collected promo literature gets tossed or never looked at again? Experts insist you should follow-up with all leads within 48 hours of the trade show.

Here’s how you can use Gladhandle to follow up with your new leads before everyone else has even unpacked their bags!

  1. The booth is packed up and you’ve got 50 new business cards (hopefully with notes).
  2. Find a WiFi hotspot asap, log into Gladhandle, enter your top 10 leads.
  3. Drag and drop a branded e-mail to each, and write a brief custom message. Thank the prospect and reintroduce your solution.
  4. Follow up with the rest of the lukewarm-to-cool leads as a group when you get back to the office. You may just want to use a template message for these.
  5. Set reminders for future actions. What is your next move, and when?
  6. Voila! You’ve responded to all your new leads in less than 48 hours!

Handling Sales Objections: "I Need Time to Think It Over"

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It was just 238 years ago that a few rabble-rousers decided to get out of the British Empire. With the Declaration of Independence, they pledged their fortunes and their lives to declare their fight for freedom. But you may not know that only 2 men out of the eventual 56 signers actually sealed their commitment and signed the legendary document on July 4, 1776: John Hancock and Charles Thomson.

The remaining signatures were applied a few weeks later on August 2, 1776, after copies had been distributed to all members of the Continental Congress.

They needed time to review the document. To consider their position. To decide to go all in and rebel against their parent nation.

They needed time, in other words, to "think it over.”

Remember this the next time someone gives you the age-old objection that they “need time to think it over.” Even the founders of our country were not willing to be sold in a moment’s notice. When presented with the Declaration of Independence, they were not asked to sign immediately.

They were invited to an event in a few weeks, where everyone else would be signing. If they decided to sign with everyone else, they were welcome to participate. If they didn’t sign - well, everyone else would be watching.

This was a masterful use of selling skills. John Hancock allowed the members of the Continental Congress “time to think it over.” He gave them the exact amount of time they had to consider it, with an appointment to make their decision.

In front of everyone else.

How can you apply this lesson to your own sales process?

When your presentation is over, if your prospective customer won't meet your eyes, and mumbles something about 'time to think it over,' all you need to do is establish the boundaries of the thinking time.

1. Set an appointment for the decision.

"You should consider all the facts before you make a decision. I'll come back this time next week. That should be enough time for you to think it over, right?"

2. Discover any unresolved questions.

"While you are thinking this over, what are the questions that you need to research before our appointment?"

3. Invite a current client to the meeting.

"When I come back, I'd like to bring one of my current clients with me, so that you can ask them any questions that you develop over the next week about what it's like working with me."

Saying "I need time to think it over" is often interpreted by salespeople as "no." The Founding Fathers didn't take it that way, and neither should you.

7.5 Questions To Ask Your Customer To Get Great Video Testimonials

During the webinar "Prove It! Testimonials That Sell" Jeffrey Gitomer and Andy Horner laid out a sequence of 7.5 questions you can ask your customer to get a top-notch testimonials. These questions work exceptionally well for video testimonials.

Sit down with your customer, hit 'Record,' and ask these 7.5 questions to get to the "wallet" of the testimonial. Watch the video to see what I mean.

You can also watch the entire webinar for free on Udemy.

An Open Letter To Cold Callers

The other day, we were asked on Twitter whether we thought social media was a more productive way to build sales than cold calling. Aside from being a completely vague and open-ended question, it was also a pretty overt invite to a debate. One we gladly accepted. All that being said, we went into the discussion knowing this: there’s no such thing as winning a Twitter debate. The best you can hope for is an amicable parting. Mission accomplished, but there was a lot left unsaid. So I thought I would use this blog post to fully communicate just how ineffective we believe cold calling is as a sales strategy and leave no doubt.

Dear Cold Callers,

I hope that you’re able to take time out from your busy day of phone calling, and little else (I mean, who has the time when you have to make 100  or more calls to get one sale, right?) to read this. It’s important.

I want you to put down the phone and back away from it. Slowly. Slooooooowly. That’s it.

Now…take a deep breath and prepare to read something that will upset you.

You’re doing it wrong.

You’re wasting your time. You’re killing your brand. You’re destroying good will.

It doesn’t have to be like this. You can spend the same amount of time (or less) that you already spend working on your contact list, but rather than making one sale, you can start building profitable relationships that lead to multiple sales and long term customers.

Speaking from the perspective of someone who’s been coerced into cold calling in the past, and has also received more than his fair share of cold calls, I can tell you this: cold calling is a dead giveaway that you are out of better options. I don’t care if you’re the best cold caller in the business, 95-98% of the people you speak to will think bad thoughts about you and your business. In today’s business world, can you really afford to make that many enemies on a daily basis?

John Jantsch from the ducttape marketing blog puts it simply: “Cold calling results in about a 1-3% success rate for getting an initial appointment and it’s generally abusive to both parties. When that same call is made with a referral, the rate jumps up to 40% and even much higher when that referral comes from within the company."

Our very own Jeffrey Gitomer sheds additional light on the subject with a few statistics in this Business Record piece:

  • 98 percent or more rejection rate.
  • 100 percent interruption of the prospect.
  • 100 percent already know what you’re selling.
  • 100 percent lack of personal preparation about the customer.

Finally, when was the last time you immediately got someone on the phone who could say yes to you with authority? More often than not, the people who can say yes aren’t the ones answering the phone. In fact, the people answering the phones are usually trained in how to screen out cold callers, and their job security is based much more on keeping you off the boss’ phone than yours is based on getting connected. That’s a hurdle.

So with this many obstacles in your way, why not at least try something different? Cold calling used to have it’s place. Now it’s been replaced.

Say you’ve got a list of 500 names you plan to call. The best cold caller in the business will expect to get about 15 appointments or follow up conversations from a list that size. That’s 3%.

But what if you took the time to do a little research on the names you’ve got in front of you before calling them? Look them up on Twitter, and follow the ones who are talking about and posting about topics that are of interest to you.  Retweet a couple of their tweets that particularly resonate with you. Reply to them with a question or insightful comment. Start a conversation.

Look them up on LinkedIn and check out the groups they belong to there. Scan the recent discussions in those groups for comments or questions from those folks and then respond with a quality message of your own. Check out who you may know that they also know, and ask that mutual friend for an introduction or a referral.

Does it take longer? Sure it does. But then, maybe not.

You may be able to disqualify some of the people on your list even faster than you would on the phone while others will take some investigation. The point is that by the time you actually talk to them on the phone, they will have probably either invited you to call or agreed to your request to do so. And that can make all the difference in the world.

So cold callers of the world, I’m calling on you to quit. Cold turkey.

Please feel free to let me know how you feel about all this in the comments below. No calls please.

 

9 Tips (Not Wishes) To Get More Email Opens!

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The email subject line has often been referred to as a keyhole. Your recipients use your subject line to take a peek into your message to make a split-second decision to turn the key. By clicking to open your email, they are acknowledging two things. First, that you are important to them. Second, that your subject line promises to deliver value. "Great to meet you," "Thanks for taking my call," and "Just checking in" do not promise value. They guarantee that the recipient's time will be wasted. There are many forms of value you can allude to with your subject line. Something personal. Something unusual. Something timely. Something the recipient doesn't want to miss. Something they've been waiting for. Something they would love to learn. Something that will make them laugh or smile.

Do you allude to value like this? Do you grab the recipient's attention? Or are you promising... nothing?

Here are 9 ideas to start getting more opens by using your subject line like a keyhole that promises value:

1. Say something different. Often, recipients will click to open if your subject line is simply different. It triggers the idea that your message will be too. Make sure you don't disappoint. Instead of saying the same old thing like, “Following up from our meeting" or “Haven’t heard from you in a while, " try saying "Caution: This message will self-instruct" or "Thank you for the email I haven't gotten from you yet." Then, follow up with a message that makes the recipient laugh and respond.

2. Play to their sense of professional responsibility. Recipients respond to team project emails. They often don't respond to vendor sales emails. Go figure. If you can frame your subject line to sound more like an everyday project email, you will generate more opens and thereby more responses. "I need your input." "Clarifying your comment." "Rescheduled time." "The info you requested." Is 2:30PM better?" "OK with you?" Got it? Actually that's a pretty good one too. "Did you get it?" (Stay away from setting your emails to "urgent" or actually writing "Important" or "Urgent" in your subject line. It's a desperation tactic.)

3. Ask a great question. The very act of asking a question prompts recipients to give an answer. Ever been at a professional seminar when the speaker asks a question appropriate for a 10 year old, like "Show of hands. Can anyone name 3 animals with stripes?" Out of a room of 100, 50 hands shoot into the air. Humans love being the one with the answer. Your question should call for their personal input, not an obvious yes or no answer. Try "Would this offend you?" Or "What side would you take on this?" Or "What's the 1 thing holding you back?" Or "Can you name 3 animals with stripes?" No really. Try it. It's better than what you've been using.

4. Use incomplete thoughts. Using incomplete thoughts has a way of getting a person to. See how odd that last sentence is? It's incomplete. It refocuses the recipient as they're scanning their inbox. They want to know the rest of the story! To do so, they have to open your email. Here are a few examples: "I like it when you said –" , "Did you mean to say –" , "What I meant was –" , "Thank you for the –" , " This completely changed the way I think about –". (Use a hyphen to end your phrase, not '...' because characters that repeat can hurt your spam score.)

5. Refer to the contents of your email message. Statistics reveal that subject lines that directly summarize the contents of the email itself consistently get the highest open rates. "The proven process for selling your house in a week." "3 truths everyone should know before investing." "A hidden gem in our policy handbook."

6. Use numbers. Articles or answers that include a numbered list do well because they're definitive. The keyhole view they promise is a short, important list . "The 8 best tips for getting 1000 LinkedIn followers." My personal best open rate for an email with over 100,000 recipients was, "2 quick questions." Use it and see if it works for you.

7. Avoid industry jargon. Don't use acronyms or words you use inside your industry that customers find unfamiliar. If you're in the technology sector and you need to give a customer access to a demo, say "Click here to see our main demo" not "Your core system access credentials."

8. Keep it short. Some of my examples in this article have been longer. Shorter however, is better. 3-4 words is your sweet spot. It's another reason why "2 quick questions" worked.

9. Have fun and make it personal. Your recipients are human beings. Humans don't respond to corporate language, canned expressions, or the same old thing. They respond to having fun and anything that's about them. Inject more of that into your subject lines and you can nickname your emails "boomerangs" because they'll return to you with a reply!

 

It's Re-Engagement Season: Here's How to Get More "Yeses" All Year!

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Folks in the jewelry business love the holidays. It’s the single most popular time to pop the question. In fact, they even call it "Engagement Season." So with that in mind, as we transition out of the holidays back into the real world, why not start off with a little RE-engagement? As in re-engaging your list and trimming off the dead weight. If you’re not keeping a close eye on who’s opening, clicking through or ignoring your emails, you could be hurting your statistics and possibly your reputation.

What is a re-engagement campaign?

Simply put, it’s a way for you to identify and reconnect with inactive subscribers while also figuring out which email addresses you can get rid of. The key phrase here is “inactive subscribers". If you have a good number of contacts that regularly open, read, click through and share your emails, DO NOT INCLUDE THEM IN THIS CAMPAIGN.

Your audience for the re-engagement campaign is made up of your stale contacts. It’s the people who have been on your list for a long time and may or may not be paying attention to your emails that you want to talk to here. Your goal is to figure out which ones to keep and which ones to leave behind.

Why you need to do this.

There are many reasons why a re-engagement campaign is helpful or even necessary. If it’s been a while since you reached out to your list you could be putting your site’s reputation or even your email service provider at risk if your emails result in a high bounce rate.

Plus, as your list gets older, you’ll skew your analytics by keeping the inactive folks around. Remember, just having a big list isn’t the goal. The goal is to have a list that is active and productive for you. Just like pruning dead branches off of a rose bush makes the rest stronger, the same is true for your list and your results.

How to create your re-engagement campaign

1)   The first thing you need to do is figure out which of your contacts qualify as inactive. You could do this by looking at the last time each of your contacts opened or clicked through an email. If you send only one email per month, then contacts that haven’t opened an email in 3-4 months might be considered inactive. If you send one email per week, then contacts that haven’t engaged for a month or two may be considered inactive. In other words, you’ll need to decide on the criteria, but those are guidelines you can use.

2)   Next, you’ll need to create a compelling email to send. Do this by going back and looking at your analytics to see which messages or content or special offers have been the most successful for you over time.

  • Do you have an eBook that got you a lot of response? Offer it up again!
  • Do you have an hourly consultation rate that you could waive for first time clients? Tell them about how beneficial that free consultation could be for them.

The bottom line here is to go with something that you know has worked in the past. Don’t use this as an opportunity to test out new ideas or new offers. You’ll have no benchmark for its success to measure against.

3)   Send your message and check your success metrics. In this case, your success metrics are:

  • Bounce Rate – clean out the hard bounces for sure, give the soft bounces another shot
  • Complaint Rate – ideally, you should see a spam complaint rate around 0.1% or less on any email you send. Make them your first priority for removal from your list.
  • Click and Open Rates – This is subjective from one email to the next but since you’ll be conducting this campaign based on previously successful content, you’ll want to shoot for similar results.

4)   Send a follow up message to those remaining on your list that were not among the bounces or spam complaints, but have not completed the action you want them to. Again, you’ll watch your success metrics and further weed out the contacts that don’t meet your criteria.

Start to finish; this campaign shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-4 weeks to complete. If you get going today, you could have a leaner, healthier, more productive list by February that will result in a lot more “Yeses" throughout the year.

Momentum: The Product of Mental Muscle

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"Momentum is generated by exercising mental muscle." @andyhorner

This Sunday, the Ravens and the 49ers will attempt to crush their opponent with a combination of plays that will swell to an overwhelming force.

This is called game-winning momentum. Once a team catches fire, the opposing team is in deep trouble.

Do you know how to create momentum with your business, in your industry, against your competitors? Have you caught fire yet?

If not, you're far from alone.

There are 32 teams in the NFL. Only 2 will play for the title on Sunday.

I can't tell you how to win the Big Game in your industry or with your business, but I can break down the mental skills you'll need to create game-winning momentum.

First, momentum is born out the unwavering belief that you CAN win. It swells with the force of mental determination. It rises to powerful heights with focus. Finally, with stalwart execution, it crushes its goal and washes away the threat of defeat.

Here's your game plan for creating your game-winning momentum:

Belief. Determination. Focus. Execution.

BELIEF: I start every year with a two week kickstart project. This year, I committed to building my own video studio. I completed it last Monday! Now I can record professional quality video content for my customers as a core part of my 2013 business strategy.

Like most people, I didn't have the first clue how to create a video studio. But like The Little Engine, I believed I could. Self-belief is far more vital than know-how.

Two behaviors to foster your self-belief:

1. Disbelief of the Opposite: For me, the idea of not completing my video studio did not exist. Self-doubt is the great killer of momentum. It's what causes fumbles on the 10 yard line. You must only consider and imagine one outcome - victory.

2. Repetition: Once you've discounted failure, your germ of belief must be reinforced by repeating to yourself that you can do it! Sharpie it on your bathroom mirror. Set it as your phone's lock screen. Tattoo it on your knuckles.

DETERMINATION: It may appear synonymous to having focus, but it's very different. Focus is the control over the actions needed to complete a task. Determination is the control over the will needed to complete a task.

Determination is your stalwart resolve.

Building momentum requires tremendous power, like the boosters needed to lift a space shuttle off the pad. You'll be tired. You'll ache. You'll be told you can't. Mental determination is the fortitude to heave forward against all forces.

How do you develop mental determination? Like any skill, it can be strengthened.

How? The same way muscles grow! You start light. Your mental muscles get torn, hurt, then heal stronger. As you increase the weight, you eventually get "ripped."

Your determination training plan - Start with a task that..

1. Is out of your comfort zone

2. Has a clearly defined goal

3. Is challenging but not impossible

4. You can accomplish with a friend

5. Scares you (the one's you grow from the most!)

If you push yourself to level up with each accomplishment, you'll have new will power muscles to flex. Your mental determination will mature and grow strong.

FOCUS: Your self-belief got you to the Big Game and your determination is ripped and ready. But if you don't have the concentration required to win, you may suffer the heart-wrencher of going home without the trophy. In pro sports, the momentum, the game, the purse, and the dream are lost at the same time as the team's focus. The same is true in business.

4 tips for retaining focus:

1. Write your game plan down - so you never lose sight of your strategy

2. Keep doing what works - don't change your 3rd quarter strategy unnecessarily

3. Make minor shifts - if the game changes, flexibility may be required

4. Stick to your original objective - avoid project bloat by simply saying "no"

5. Write your outcome down - so you never lose sight of the finish line

EXECUTION: About this time in 2006, American cross racing snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis had a comfortable lead and was moments from claiming the gold medal in the XX Olympic games in Turin, Italy. As she sailed off one of the final jumps on the bump-filled course, she celebrated early with a trick called a "method air." She lost her balance upon landing and wiped out. Lindsey recovered, but not before Switzerland's Tanja Frieden passed her to win gold. Lindsey stood embarrassed on the silver platform as the Swiss anthem played.

Execution is the carrying out of a plan. You may have the self-belief, determination, and focus to win, but if you veer from the plan and fail to follow through, you too may fall.

6 blunders that end in execution wipe outs:

1. Cockiness - no trash talking or hot dogging, self-conceit becomes self-defeat

2. Assumptions - make only one, things will never go as planned

3. Trusting in your lead - just like Avis, your competition will try harder

4. Finishing weak - at the end of the game double your efforts to finish strong

5. Allow for luck - the Swiss snowboarder got lucky, thanks to Lindsey

6. Celebrating early - save the back-patting until you're wearing the gold medal...

...or the Super Bowl ring.

Momentum is how most games and many business successes are won. But make no mistake, momentum isn't something you chance upon. It's the product of mental muscle that you create with self-belief, strengthen with determination, maintain with focus, and drive to the end zone with execution to help you win YOUR Big Game!

Webinar Excerpt: 10.5 Signs You're Not Delivering Enough Value

In this brief, 2-minute video clip, Jeffrey Gitomer and Andy Horner give you 10.5 warning signs that you are not providing enough value to your customers. Like the canary in the coal mine, these signs can serve as timely warnings. If you're not providing enough value, then the competition can creep in and take your customers away.

But if you provide enough value, the competition will never be a threat. You'll have loyal customers that stay with you, no matter what.

You can watch the entire "Cash Source Crash Course" on Udemy.

5-Step Formula for Earning Referrals

You strike up a conversation with a guy at a coffee shop. It's a good chat. You've made an acquaintance. Congratulations! At this point in the new relationship, how comfortable are you with asking him to borrow his car? How about asking if he minds you coming over to his house for dinner that evening? Awkward silence, right? If you're asking for referrals from prospects and new customers, you're doing the same thing. You're putting your customers in an awkward situation because you haven't yet earned anything... much less a contact from their network which they've spent their entire career building and guarding.

Asking for referrals from customers who you have yet to impact with substantial value, can harm the budding relationship by making you look like "a taker." Even if they do hand you the name and number of a lead, it's often a low quality contact just to be rid of your request.

Referrals, just like trust, are to be earned.

Who determines when you've earned them? Your customers.

But this doesn't mean you're helpless to get referrals. You just have to do it the proper way.

Referrals should flow to you naturally and voluntarily via word-of-mouth recognition of your excellence and valued service. You're goal then, should be to WOW! your customer by making such a dramatic difference in their business that they think to themselves, "What can I do beyond payment to say thank you?" Before we show you the 5-step formula for earning referrals, make sure you always follow these three referral rules:

1. Referrals come from people who are impressed by what you do.

It enhances anyone's reputation to refer someone that’s really good at what they do. Your expertise, your friendliness, or your character are all avenues to make an impression with someone.

When someone is happy, and gives you a compliment about your product or service, that is your cue to begin the referral conversation.

Ask before they are happy (or impressed) and you’ll only get an awkward silence.

2. Help solve someone's problem.

You don't want to sell business. You want to solve problems.

People will not give away their mother-in-law's cell phone number just to help you sell more of your stuff.

If you can solve her problem, though, you're getting the referral.

Don't ask people who they know. Ask for problems they know about.

3. Ask about a specific buyer persona.

Describe the specific type of person (the buyer persona) you want to help, and describe the problem that you can solve.

Massage therapists, for example, can work on anyone with a body. ("Who do you know that has a body?" isn’t a question that gets you phone numbers.) People won't refer your services to everyone and anyone; ask for types of people to get them thinking.

"I work with pregnant women experiencing low back pain, to help them handle the changes in their skeletal structure painlessly."

This implies the question, "Do you know anybody who is pregnant?" without actually needing to ask it.

By getting specific, your referral business will grow much more quickly.

Easy 5-step formula: How to Generate Referrals

  1. Wait until someone expresses satisfaction with who you are, or what you do.
  2. Say, "I'm glad I was able to help you. If you know anyone else I can help, please pass my name along." Hand over an extra business card.
  3. Describe the type of person (the buyer persona) you are looking for.
  4. Describe the problem that you can solve.
  5. Ask, "Do you know anyone like that?"

If people are still acting uncomfortable when you apply this formula, go back and review the three rules above, and find out which one you are violating.

If you're good at what you do, people know it. They know other people that you can help, too. Follow this formula, and you can generate referrals, instead of begging for them.

The 50 Sales & Marketing Masters You Must Follow on Twitter

50-to-follow

Who should you follow on Twitter?

If you're looking for people to follow on Twitter who excel at sales and self-marketing, we've compiled this list of 50 of the most influential self-marketers on Twitter.

 1. Sally Hogshead

 

@SallyHogshead

Author of FASCINATE, creator of the Fascination Advantage™ personality test at HowToFascinate.com. http://www.SallyHogshead.com

 

 

2. Keith Ferrazzi

 

@KeithFerrazzi

Thought leader. Relationship Guru. Consultant. Author of “Never Eat Alone" and “Who’s got Your Back." http://www.keithferrazzi.com

 

 

3. S. Anthony Iannarino

 

@iannarino

Catalyst. Instigator. Agitator.

http://www.thesalesblog.com

 

 

4. Mari Smith

 

 

@marismith

Leading Social Media Strategist, Speaker, Author | Premier Facebook Marketing Expert http://marismith.com/top5

 

 

5. Ali Brown

 

 

@alibrown

Entrepreneur, mentor, & philanthropist helping women around the world start and grow businesses to live their best lives. http://www.alibrown.com

 

 

6. Jeffrey Gitomer

 

 

@gitomer

king of sales, dad, granddad, writer, friend.

http://www.gitomer.com

 

 

7.  Andy Horner

 

 

@andyhorner

Ace of Sales CEO (www.aceofsales.com), Marketing and Brand Consultant, Spokesperson for Originality http://www.andyhorner.com

 

 

8. Dale Carnegie

 

 

@dalecarnegie

Dale Carnegie Training – Leadership Training, Sales Management, Communication Skills http://www.dalecarnegie.com

 

 

9. Harvey Mackay

 

@harveymackay

Official Twitter - NY Times #1 BestSelling Author of Swim With The Sharks. Sports Nut, Father, Grandfather, Husband. http://harveymackay.com

 

 

10. Robert Terson

 

@robertterson

Master Salesman and Motivator, Author and Speaker.

http://sellingfearlessly.com/

 

 

11. Ian Brodie

 

@ianbrodie

Straight talking marketing advice for consultants and coaches. Blogger, speaker, budding author. http://www.ianbrodie.com

 

 

12. Dan Waldschmidt

 

@DanWaldo

an ordinary dude with an outrageous vision…

http://www.EdgyConversations.com

 

 

13. Doug Davidoff

 

@dougdavidoff

Reinventing the way companies sell, so you look forward to the words, The salesperson is here to see you. Vistage/EO speaker. http://www.thefastgrowthblog.com

 

 

14.  Jennifer Abernethy

 

@saleslounge

Social Business Marketing Stylist Multi-Million $ expert. Author: Idiot's Guide to Social Media Marketing 2010. http://www.thesaleslounge.com/

 

 

15. SalesDog

 

@salesdog

Sales and Marketing advice. Money and Motivation. Ideas and Answers. Entertaining weekly Sales newsletter. http://www.salesdog.com

 

 

16. Nancy Nardin

 

@sellingtools

We are a content development & advisory firm specializing in sales productivity tools & advanced selling strategies. http://www.smartsellingtools.com/blog

 

 

 17. Jill Konrath

 

@jillkonrath

Fresh strategies for selling to crazy-busy people; author of SNAP Selling (#1 Amazon sales) & Selling to Big Companies. http://www.jillkonrath.com/sales-resources/

 

 

18. Andy Paul

 

@zerotimeselling

Author of Zero-Time Selling. Leading expert on the speed of selling and the strategies, tactics and processes to make it happen. http://www.zerotimeselling.com

 

 

19. David A Brock

 

@davidabrock

Passionate about helping sales and business professionals achieve extraordinary goals.

http://partnersinexcellenceblog.com

 

 

20. Frank Rumbauskas

 

@frankrumbauskas

Author of the breakthrough best-seller Never Cold Call Again

http://www.nevercoldcall.com

 

 

21. Brad Sugars

 

@actioncoachceo

Brad Sugars, ActionCOACH CEO. Find or become a business coach at ActionCOACH.com. http://www.bradsugars.com

 

 

22. Joanne Black

 

@referralsales

America's Authority On Referral Selling

http://www.nomorecoldcalling.com

 

 

23. Sam Richter

 

@samrichter

Award-winning author of Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling; world-renowned speaker; Know More! founder and CEO. http://www.samrichter.com

 

 

24. Marcus Sheridan

 

@thesaleslion

Passionately writing about all things inbound & content marketing, business, & life success principles. http://www.TheSalesLion.com

 

 

25. Melinda Emerson

 

@smallbizlady

Forbes #1 Influential Woman for Entrepreneurs, Host #SmallBizChat, Author Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com

 

 

26. Paul McCord

 

@paul_mccord

Trainer & author teaching sales teams, biz owners & professionals how to find & connect w/ great prospects. http://www.dynamicsalesgrowth.com

 

 

27. Miles Austin

 

@milesaustin

The Web Tools Guy. Sales & Marketing Technologist, speaking & writing on web tools that improve business. http://www.fillthefunnel.com

 

 

28. Shameless Shamus

 

@shamelessshamus

Shameless Salesman, Persuader, and Covert Influencer. Master Sales Coach and Consultant. Insightful and irreverent sales advice. http://shamelesssalesblog.com/

 

 

29. Lori Richardson

 

@scoremoresales

Never confuse activity w/ accomplishment. Love seeing b2b sales reps hit quota! (& love coffee) Sales blogger. http://www.scoremoresales.com

 

 

30. Gerhard Gschwandtner

 

@gerhard20

Founder of Selling Power magazine and host of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Passionate about advancing the Sales 2.0 conversation. http://www.sellingpower.com

 

 

31. Brian Vellmure

 

@BrianVellmure

Executive, Analyst, Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Writer and Blogger. http://www.brianvellmure.com

 

 

32. ZoomInfo

 

@ZoomInfo

The only multi-sourced, continuously-updated business information database available. 6m companies, 65m professionals. http://www.zoominfo.com

 

 

33. Jim Keenan

 

@keenan

Sr. Partner, A Sales Guy Consulting. Professional Ski Instructor (aka Ski Bum) Dad of 3 crazy, in a good way, girls. http://www.asalesguy.com

 

 

34. Mark Hunter

 

@TheSalesHunter

Sales motivation tips and proven sales training techniques to help you increase sales, profitably http://www.TheSalesHunter.com

 

 

35.  Sharon Drew Morgen

 

@sharondrew

Visionary, change management, coach, consultant, sales guru. Developer of Buying Facilitation™, a decision facilitation method. http://sharondrewmorgen.com

 

 

36. Tom Searcy

 

@tomsearcy

Author of RFPS SUCK! and WHALE HUNTING, big deal hunter, teacher, keynote speaker, blogger, leader & Vistage speaker. http://www.huntbigsales.com

 

 

37. Gavin Ingham

 

@gaviningham

Sales author, motivational speaker & seminar leader.

http://www.gaviningham.com/blog/

 

 

38. Alen Mayer, CSP

 @mayeralen

Canadian Sales Expert, Trainer and Author; Certified Advanced NLP Sales Specialist. To know is to sell. http://www.alenmayer.com/

 

 

39. Chad Levitt

 

@chadalevitt

Sales Rep on the front line of innovation @hubspot | Author of the New Sales Economy blog | Modern Sales & Marketing Strategist http://www.newsaleseconomy.com

 

 

 40. drjimanderson

 

@drjimanderson

Soft Skills For Tech Folks: Negotiating, Product Mgmt, Public Speaking, CIO Skills; Consultant, Speaker, Coach, and Trainer http://www.BlueElephantConsulting.com

 

 

41. MediaSalesToday

 

@MediaSalesToday

Insights and Ideas for Media Sales Professionals. Sponsored by @admall and @salestouchcrm http://www.mediasalestoday.com

 

 

42. Kristin Zhivago

 

@KristinZhivago

Revenue Coach (Zhivago.com); author (RoadmapToRevenue.com); blogger (RevenueJournal.com); http://www.revenuejournal.com

 

 

43. Donal Daly

 

@dealmaker365

Exploring the Sales 2.0 landscape.

http://www.dealmaker365.com

 

 

44. Craig Elias

 

@CraigElias

Creator of Trigger Event Selling™, $1,000,000 prize winner in Billion Dollar Idea Competition, Dadpreneur http://www.ShiftSelling.com

 

 

45. Talking Media Sales

 

@TalkMediaSales

Talking Media Sales is the ultimate resource for direct sales people across all forms of media. http://talkingmediasales.com

 

 

46. Josiane Feigon

 

@JosianeFeigon

CEO of TeleSmart, Bestselling author of Smart Selling on the Phone and Online Inside sales futurist http://www.tele-smart.com

 

 

47. Mark Suster

 

@msuster

2x entrepreneur. Sold both companies (last to salesforce.com). Turned VC looking to invest in passionate entrepreneurs http://bothsid.es

 

 

48. Charles H. Green

 

@CharlesHGreen

The Trusted Advisor and Trusted Advisor Fieldbook co-author; Trust-based Selling author; speaker, trainer, coach. http://www.trustedadvisor.com

 

 

49. Paul Williams

 

@IdeaSandbox

Remarkable marketer at Idea Sandbox. Delivering creativity and innovation by the sandbox-ful. http://idea-sandbox.com/twitter/

 

 

50. Ace of Sales

 

@aceofsales

Make sales, close deals & build loyal relationships. Ace of Sales helps you attract, engage, differentiate, thank, stay in touch & WOW your customers! http://blog.aceofsales.com

 

 Who did we miss?

Is there anyone you think should have been included in this list? Leave a comment below with some Twitter handles!

6 Open-Ended Questions for Sales Starting Conversations

As sales techniques go, asking Open-Ended Questions isn't just a good idea.

It's mandatory.

Open-ended questions will get your prospect talking about what they really want to buy, how they want to buy, and their real reasons for buying.

1. Ask, "What do you look for in...?"

If you're a realtor, simply asking a prospect what they look for in a house will get you some good information to match them with the right property. But also asking them what they look for in a realtor will give you key details on how to keep them happy, and generate referrals.

2. Ask, "What have you found in the past that...?"

The past experience of your customer is crucial because it's the yardstick they'll use to measure your success. If you exceed their expectations (expectations that were set by what they have found in the past) you've got a referral partner for life.

3. Ask, "How do you propose we handle...?"

What are their ideas? Do they have particular ways of doing things? You may have a system all laid out, but involving your customer in the planning process helps them take ownership over your transaction.

4. Ask, "What would you change about...?"

This works well when you're trying to lure a customer away from the competition. Identifying where their dissatisfaction lies and providing stellar results in that particular area will make you their hero.

5. Ask, "Are there any other factors that...?"

Make sure you've got everything covered. This catch-all question can uncover the most left-field, unexpected concerns that your customer has, which they might otherwise never tell you about.

6. Ask, "How are you currently...?"

What is their current solution?

And more importantly, why is that?

The answers to these open-ended questions can foster trust in you as their advisor, because you're showing sincerity when you ask about their issues, their problems, and their concerns.

You can learn more about Open-Ended Questions, asnd their effectiveness in making you stand out from the crowd, in the webinar "Differentiate or Die."

The First Presidential Debate: Who Really Lost?

debate3

This past week we saw the first of three presidential debates. The consensus was that Governor Mitt Romney, who was engaged and prepared, defeated President Barack Obama, who many described as "checked out." Other media and entertainment voices jested that moderator Lehrer was the biggest loser due to his inability to guide questioning and hold the candidates to time constraints. The real loser, however, wasn't Obama, Lehrer, or even Big Bird. It was you – the voter.

As a student and believer in sales, marketing, and branding, I never grow desensitized to the offensive and repulsive "sales tactics" used by political campaigns. Mudslinging. Attack ads. White-toothed lies. Empty promises. But this year – in the week leading up to the first debate – I became reviled by a tactic I'd never noticed before: Debate Expectation Management.

Ugh! What a detestable term – and strategy! Debate expectation management is a ploy used by political campaigns to prepare voters for an underwhelming performance by their candidate. By lowering voter expectations, the campaign is hedging their bets. The strategy works like this: if their candidate loses, no one is surprised, the media has no big news, and voters won't pay the debate much attention. Alternatively, if their candidate wins the debate, they can hail him as the Cinderella champion in the hopes of generating bold headlines, voter attraction, and a bump in the polls.

Here are a couple of examples of how each side managed expectations leading up to last week's debate:

Romney's aide, Beth Meyers, hedged that, "President Obama is a uniquely gifted speaker, and is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history."

Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, explained, "I mean, if you just look at the assessment of the debates in 2008, that Barack Obama became the nominee of his party, in some ways in spite of his debate performances, and Mitt Romney became the nominee of his party because of them."

Imagine if Apple followed the same PR strategy of lowering expectations with the launch of the iPhone 5. "There are phones on the market, like those by Samsung, that are widely regarded as the most incredible communication devices in modern history, but hopefully the new iPhone 5 will do well, in spite of how our crappy new maps app performs." It would be the worst selling Apple product ever.

Why don't press people for the candidates instead say, "He is prepared and excited to state his plan and commitment to serve the people of this great nation. Regardless of whether the media claims him the winner or loser of the debate, our candidate will be honest, passionate, and grateful for this chance to speak to each voter."

During this time of year when fanatic football fans paint their bodies with team colors and Apple cultists camp out in lines for the next big device, the presidential candidates have the opportunity to run a campaign that sets high expectations for voters and themselves. Instead, I've only observed two campaigns spending hundreds of millions of dollars to "sell" me that their candidate is not the worse man for the job.

What about you and your business? Do you put your heart and soul into your products and services so you can set expectations high and then exceed them? Or do you have to manage customer expectations so they won't be too disappointed if you and your product underperforms?

Will you shoot to be the greatest in the world at what you do, or will you stoop to mudslinging with your competitors in the hopes that customers will choose you as the least worst option?

The path of hedging with low expectations leads undecided customers to seek any reason to choose someone else. The path of exceeding high expectations leads to customer loyalty and a lasting legacy.

--

Did you pick up on this? Do you agree? Disagree? Add your comment below. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter for more of my ideas on sales, marketing, and branding. - Andy Horner

5 New Ways to Use Pinterest For Business

pinterest5

Pinterest is the fastest growing social network of 2012. Its visual interface makes it addicting to browse, and its easy Twitter integration makes it simple to sign up and start pinning. What is Pinterest? It's the digital version of a pinboard. You know, like the kind people pin photos, news, ideas, and flyers on in their cubicles or workrooms. More specifically, it's a social sharing service that allows you to collect and share visual content from around the web. You can share anything you find – photos, infographics, screenshots, icons, and just about any type of image.

Here are 5 innovative ways to use Pinterest to promote your personal brand:

1. SEO Keyword Dominance – If you have any sort of SEO strategy in place, you know what your keywords are. If you’re a real estate agent in Brooklyn, for example, your clients will be searching for things like “Brooklyn Real Estate Agent." Create your Pinterest boards using SEO keywords to improve your search ranking on Pinterest – and on your website.

2. Use Pinterest to Promote Your Blog Posts – Pin all your blog post images on your Pinterest account. When visitors click the pin of your blog image on Pinterest, they'll click through to your actual blog article. (See how we did it on this Pinterest board.) Users can 'repin' your pins. When they do, your images appear on THEIR Pinterest board. It's just like when someone retweets your tweet. Their followers can follow your pin links to your blog – creating a whole new channel of blog traffic for you. The important hint here is to make sure your blog images are eye-catching and compelling – something someone would want to share!

pricepin
pricepin

3. Sell Products – Pinterest is the new way to window shop on the web! In addition to pinning images from your blog posts, you can also pin images of products you sell on your website. Pinterest even offers a price banner you can add to the upper left hand corner of each pin. It's a visual trigger that designates your pin as an item for sale. Your Pinterest visitors can clickthrough to your online shop and buy. This technique makes your products more sharable.

4. Pin Videos – Many Pinterest users aren't aware videos can be pinned to their boards too. Just add your "embed link" to your pin and your video will play right inside Pinterest. It's perfect for product demos, video testimonials, and value messages to share with customers. In turn, they may repin them and share them with their friends.

Does your audience like watching videos about certain subjects? Become a video curator! Create a pinboard full of the valuable videos that your audience will find helpful. As you become a trusted resource for discovering and sharing great video content, followers will likely send more traffic your way which can translate to referrals. Get the picture?

5. Discover Who's Pinning Your Images – A great way to identify your biggest fans on Pinterest is to go to http://pinterest.com/source/yourwebsite.com. Replace ‘yourwebsite.com’ with YOUR website domain, like "aceofsales.com". You'll see your pins that have been re-pinned and who re-pinned them. Reach out to your biggest fans and thank them for spreading the word. Follow them back and stay in touch to build loyalty and connections.

Pinterest, like all social media communities, has just as many business applications as personal. All you have to do is identify how to best use this powerful new service to connect with people that love what you do.

Replacements For 6 Clueless Sales Sayings

replacements2

Last night, I was enjoying my favorite summer TV show, "America's Got Talent," on Hulu. A leather-clad dance crew with fire spewing shoes finished their clogging routine and the show cut to a commercial break. But instead of seeing the Ford "Speed Dating" commercial that I've just about memorized, the video player went completely black except for a small strip of text that read, "Something went wrong trying to play this advertisement. Click here to fix it." Really? You want me to fix your video player so I can watch more ads? Not even if you sent me a pair of fire spewing shoes! "Hulu, you have no clue."

The senselessness of Hulu's message would be the same as a salesperson approaching a potential customer at a networking event and whispering, "I have laryngitis. Here's my brochure. Would you mind reading my sales pitch out loud so I can save my voice?"

Ridiculous, right? Actually, it's not that far from the clueless expressions salespeople use with customers every day. The classic is: "I'm just checking in to see if you have any questions." (You've never done this, right?)

The worst thing about clueless messages isn't that they don't yield responses. It results in your customers losing respect for you and saying to themselves the same thing I did about Hulu. "Salesperson, you have no clue." It doesn't just trash the sale - it tarnishes your reputation.

It's time to replace the senseless utterances salespeople use so frequently with response-getting, respect-building, relationship-advancing articulations that help you make sales.

Let's start with the one I bashed above:

Clueless Saying #1: "I'm just checking in to see if you have any questions."

Why it's clueless: It's a smokescreen anyone can see through. You have to admit you don't really care if they have questions. You're just tired of waiting for them to respond.

Here's the clue: If you've built rapport, given value first, and truly left them wanting to buy, then you can keep it honest, simple, friendly, and confident.

Replacement: "Can I get an update?"

Clueless Saying #2: "Is there anything else I can do to win your business?"

Why it's clueless: It's an admission that you haven't inspired enough trust for the customer to level with you about their real reason for not wanting to buy.

Here's the clue: If your customer is hesitating and you feel there is some barrier you haven't uncovered and removed yet, ask an empowering question that invites them to create a "perfect world" scenario. Often, they'll reveal their hidden reservations, giving you the chance to provide ideas and answers that will help close the sale.

Replacement: "What one thing would you change about our product that would make it close to perfect?"

Clueless Saying #3: "Do you know what we do?"

Why it's clueless: A favorite opener at trade shows and networking events, this question is really a confession that you're probably not well-known. Bad way to start. But it's popular because it's an easy way to open a conversation with a stranger. The problem is that it puts the customer in an awkward position. 9 times out of 10, they'll respond, "No, I've never heard of you."

Here's the clue: The replacement for this one is simply to turn it around. It seems obvious, but very few salespeople ever ask it.

Replacements: "Tell me what you do." or "What business are you in?"

Clueless Saying #4: "Thanks again."

Why it's clueless: This is how all mediocre salespeople end their follow-up emails after initial meetings with customers. It's using false politeness in the hopes that gratitude will gain you favor. It's what you say to your plumber for removing the knee-high septic backup in your basement - not a customer.

Here's the clue: Customers don't want to be drenched in gratitude. They want you to help them make more money and be successful. Nix the hyper-thankfulness. Instead, end your emails with a confident question that keeps the conversation moving, or just ask for the sale.

Replacements: 

"What's the next step?"

"When can you meet again?"

"What details need to be squared away?"

"Your thoughts?"

"How does that sound?"

"Ready to get started?"

"Fair enough?"

Clueless Saying #5: "Are you still interested?"

Why it's clueless: You already know the answer and it's "no." If they were truly interested they would have contacted you. Silent prospects are either not interested at all or more interested in something else.

Here's the clue: A better strategy is to give them new informaton or fresh ideas to consider.

Replacement: "Here's a new idea for you. Take a look and let me know what you think."

Clueless Saying #6: "Great to meet you. I'll give you a call."

Why it's clueless: The majority of salespeople use this expression to close a conversation with a new contact, but it's as meaningless as the standard greeting "How are you?" Essentially, it translates to: "We'll probably never talk again."

Here's the clue: Say goodbye to new contacts by giving them something to chew on. Challenge them. Leave them with a cliffhanger. Set them up for your next meeting in style.

Replacements: 

"When I follow up with you tomorrow, I want your answer to this question..."

"I'm going to contact you very soon - be thinking about this..."

"If I could help you do [x], how much more [y] would you have? I'll call for your answer."

"I have a riddle for you. See if you can answer it before I follow up."

"When I follow up, be prepared to talk about yourself and hear specific ideas about how I can help you."

I challenge you to examine your entire sales process for meaningless messages. Remove them. Replace them with something valuable that differentiates you and continues the pattern of intelligence and providing answers.

It would have been so much better if Hulu had just said, "Something went wrong trying to play this advertisement. Congratulations! This commercial "break" is sponsored by Ford."

Maybe you have another Clueless Sales Saying or a better replacement than mine. Add your comment below!

4 Powerful Ways to Use Mobile Marketing

1. Establish a business Facebook Page where customers, prospects, raving fans and referrals can join a like-minded community. Now, set up Facebook Mobile!

2. Set yourself up on Twitter.  Darren Rose, over at the TwiTip blog, has an illustrated step-by-step Twitter guide to establish yourself. Now, here’s 20 Ways to Use Twitter on Your Mobile phone from SimpleHelp.net.

3. Take a look at MSS (Multimedia Message Service). The MSS Mobile platform can deliver rich-content slideshows of images, text, audio and video via MMS. Most new phones are MMS-capable.

4. Look into mobile web marketing which enables web page advertising accessible by mobile devices. Check out the Mobile Marketing Association for guidelines. Google, Yahoo and others have been doing it for years.