Material Delays Killing Sales? Hold On



Tom Woodcock

Are material and equipment delays are killing your ability to secure projects and orders?

Who can do business in this climate? Is there an end in sight?

These are all very common questions in this construction sales environment. If you’ve followed my articles for any length of time, you’re well aware I’m not a fan of excuses. In 35 years of selling in the construction industry, I’ve determined the best companies see any negative influences on the market as opportunity. The conventional response is to complain and find blame. This is the easy position to take, eventually throwing up one’s hands and saying, “Oh, well.”

I’m currently hearing this reaction often.

Hold on a second. This might be a better situation than you think.

It’s no secret delays and pricing increases are all over the construction arena. Bids are only good for a week and pricing on materials may only be good for a day. Pricing escalation clauses are being incorporated into contracts. Project work is held up waiting for material or equipment. This can make it difficult to complete a project on time or on budget.

Yet from a sales standpoint, this is the best vehicle to close business! It takes some guts or a good firm approach, but you can secure projects and work by closing a bit more aggressively. I’m usually not a proponent of hard closing, but in this economy, it is actually a benefit to the customer. How? It’s very simple.

You are the expert in your industry or trade. Clients are counting on you to steer them in the right direction, of course couched in integrity. You see everyday what’s happening with material and supply availability as well as pricing. By informing customers that they need to pull the trigger quickly on deciding who their contractor is, you are saving them both time and money. The next step is to simply state you need to order material and supplies asap to avoid price increases or change orders. Say this in a fashion where it’s obvious you really mean it, because you do really mean it. And although I’m describing this as a sales technique, in reality it’s simply fact.

The tough part is that many contractors fear being this firm with their clients. They would rather leave information ambiguous instead of applying a little professional pressure. They fear this will push the customer away and they’ll not get the project.

In reality, it’s the opposite. A good close can secure the project with more immediacy. Trying to massage the customer in this climate is ineffective and somewhat of a disservice. Different market conditions often warrant a different approach. The construction market has been holding, but there’s a slowdown looming as interest rates increase and construction spending cools down. Securing projects now is critical to carry companies through any dip in the market. Throw in the challenging labor shortage, and you have a recipe for a significant market shift. We’ve seen it before, and it wasn’t pretty. It’s especially true with customers that reward you with recurring business. You have an even stronger platform with this type of client to apply a little extra closing pressure. You already have the client’s trust, so your client will more readily embrace your insistence to move quickly. They’ll understand you’re not crying wolf and are looking out for their best interests. It may even deepen the relationship to the point where things improve, and they still move on your direction.  The truth is, they need your guidance as they most likely aren’t acutely aware of the circumstances in your area of expertise.

Sales can be challenging, even in times when there’s an abundance of projects. The number-one buying motive is trust. This is a great time to either establish or increase this key deciding factor with your clients.

It’s not a half-bad idea to even roleplay this firmer closing technique within your own company. The more comfortable you are being firm with advising your customers, the easier it is for them to accept the premise. Not applying that pressure can increase the bleeding.

Instead of whining about the current pricing, availability and labor issues that exist, convert that into securing a higher percentage of your opportunities. A higher close rate always beats increase your estimating volume.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,, or at 314.775.9217.


Effective Digital Storytelling Must Be Compelling, Persuasive, Complete



Craig Workman

Storytelling is all the rage in today’s digital marketing world as organizations seek to connect quickly and often with their target audiences in deep and meaningful ways. But attention spans are short, so marketers and communications professionals now craft shorter and shorter stories loaded with keywords intended to find their way through the clutter of busy media platforms – with just enough information to generate a click, share, open, like, response or purchase.

Whether you are selling a product or service, making a point or giving a speech, you need to reinforce what you’ve got to say with a great story.  This means making it personal, emotional, truthful, valid and relevant to the audience for which it is intended to influence.  Great storytelling should be compelling, persuasive and memorable for your target audience, which means is also must be complete. 

Great storytelling takes more time and creativity to prepare and produce than barebones messaging, but the rewards are well worth your trouble. Consider the significant benefits of “earned media coverage” to the sales and marketing communications programs for any type of organization.

Earned media is achieved by first presenting a compelling idea for a news or feature story to a targeted news editor or key influencer, and then convincing that editor that your content has great news value for readers or viewers. The story idea can be built around the key marketing messages being advocated by the communicator and then creatively linked to the interests of the publication or digital media platform being pitched. This process often involves research, writing, preparation of background information and effective interpersonal communications with the editor or influencer to present a complete story. 

News releases are often the source that leads to your earned media successes. A well-written news release should provide all the basic information needed to stand on its own as a news story in the media outlets you are targeting. This information should announce the who, what, where, when, why and how of the news being publicized and include visuals, links to related information and keyword optimization.

A well-written news release should make an editor’s or influencer’s job easy, but all too often that is not the case in this digital marketing age. One trade journal editor I know told me that he receives an increasing number of news releases that are only one or two sentences long and do not provide any context or background to make the news more interesting to his readers. While such brevity has become the norm for achieving clicks, it does very little in advancing the reputation of the organization or individual behind the announcement.

Indeed, earning great publicity in today’s “tradigital” media is still one of the most highly sought-after results in the marketing mix of most organizations. News and feature coverage conveys very high levels of importance, credibility and accuracy for your brand or organization to a large and targeted audience. And it often leads to more earned coverage for your organization in the future. Great news publicity makes for equally great social media content for marketers to further optimize.

As the use of digital marketing channels and techniques evolves, many marketers are taking another look at the importance of good storytelling and reputation management in their marketing mix. One local marketing communications trade association recently announced that the featured speaker at its upcoming chapter event is an expert in news media relations and storytelling. The association says its members can benefit from learning and adding this effective storytelling strategy to their marketing plans.

As the storytelling style of your organization or brand evolves, remember that for stories to be more compelling and persuasive, you need to tell the whole story.

Craig Workman is president of Workman Communications Group, a St. Louis-based public relations and brand management agency that has served clients in the construction industry since 1996. He can be reached at or (314) 640-9033.


The Rise of New Media: What ONE Thing Should Marketing Teams Be Focusing On?



Stephanie Woodcock

This is a black and white industry. 

In a typical RFP, there are a slew of numbers. Percentages, fixed fees, hourly wages, rate schedules, exclusions and more. It’s as black and white as it gets. 

So, as I paint the picture of why content marketing is important to the bottom line, I’ll try to be as black and white as possible. 

Words matter. 

Every company owner wants more leads. But sadly, it’s not point A to point B anymore. Salesperson calls prospect. Converts prospect to buyer. Nope.

Buyers are savvier.  It’s marketing’s job to build trust, create demand and help fill the sales funnel. Trust is not black and white. 

Gone are the days where we can get traction from cold calling. Think about your own personal buying behavior. I hang up. I don’t have time for cold calls. But when I want to purchase something, I do make time. 

I take time to do the front-end work of researching and educating myself, so I don’t have to deal with the potential fallout of making a wrong decision based on slimy sales tactics. I would rather depend on my own research of a subject than someone who calls me randomly, selling me something. I also tend to trust companies that invest in content to educate me, the buyer. 

What becomes most important to my buying decision?


Trust sells.  Content marketing is the key to building that trust. This should be the number-one priority of every marketing team in this industry: increase content marketing. Buyer behaviors are changing.  Two-plus years of doing most everything digitally has changed the marketing landscape. People are online researching!

Some quick stats:

  • 70 percent of business buyers find content directly on the company’s website.
  • Content marketing was the most popular B2B marketing strategy in 2020.
  • B2B email marketing produces the highest ROI.
  • LinkedIn is the most effective platform for B2B lead generation.
  • 52 percent of B2B buyers say they’re “definitely” more likely to buy from a brand once they’ve read its content.

Because buyers and owners are self-educating and becoming more sophisticated, we must finetune our marketing strategy to be where they are looking.

This is called inbound marketing – creating content that someone will find through research, whether it be on your website, a LinkedIn blog post or in a magazine. 

Where are they looking?

  • Association & Industry Events
  • Expert Panels & Industry Resources
  • Online & Print Industry Magazines
  • LinkedIn
  • Email Inbox
  • Company Website

Anywhere that content can be seen, heard and shared is where your prospects are looking.

It goes beyond traditional marketing. Traditional marketing is direct mail, direct email, billboards, one-sheets, flyers and cold calls. They have one static message: “Buy from me. Here’s why.”

Content marketing is a long form answer that addresses customer pain points and provides solutions.  It’s white papers, blog posts, articles, press releases, videos and podcasts – where knowledge is centerstage.  It’s not “Buy from me. Here’s why.” It’s “Trust me. Here’s why.”

The best marketing teams are made up of in-house and outsourced marketing experts who know your industry. Our jobs should be to curate content from the experts and harness thought leadership and insight from team members across department and roles. Content marketing should not be relegated to those who have free time on their hands or solely to salespeople. A brand and its employees are the subject matter experts. The content creators are the content marketing experts.

Hiring an intern to post on your Facebook page is NOT going to suffice for your “content marketing plan.”

Content marketing should be present at all levels of an organization – from the company executives’ keynote speeches at an industry event, to a salesperson closing a sale by sharing a white paper or blog post article – it all seeks to inform, inspire and reassure target audiences that they are making the right choice. 

While it’s very possible to measure ROI of your content marketing plan, it also can be difficult and not nearly as black and white as we may like. 

Take paid LinkedIn ads as an example. A user will rarely click a paid ad and immediately convert on the landing page or website. The process may be more gradual.  More likely, a user will see a LinkedIn ad, research the company on Google later, read a blog or article and then later begin the buying process. That’s three to four different types of content marketing platforms. If we only measured the value of the LinkedIn ad by the click-through rate and leads generated, we would never run a paid social ad again.

Our target audience for content marketing is not finite and easy to predict. The goal of content marketing shouldn’t be focused only on known potential buyers, but rather on working to build a brand that informs future buyers on problems that they may or may not know they have.

An effective content marketing plan communicates expertise, longevity, flexibility and problem solving.  It’s not just about telling a story about history or years of service. It’s about instilling trust in a brand, conveying the DNA of that company, establishing credibility and educating for the future. It’s not black and white.  It brands the past and paints the future. In full color. 

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Too Creative, a St. Louis-based marketing and creative design firm for businesses in the building industry. Contact her at or (314) 753-1148.


The Market is Alive: Shake off the Rust and Get Back Out There



Tom Woodcock

Well, I hate to say, “I told you so,” but I told you so.

The minute pandemic-related restrictions were beginning to be lifted, outside sales activity started picking up.

Zoom is fading. The desire to meet face to face is once again taking center stage. The new normal didn’t quite happen as predicted. Whoever said the handshake was going away obviously had no idea how business works, or he simply doesn’t know how people prefer to interact.

We are now coming back to the way it was. The big question is: Were you working your sales effort properly before the pandemic took center stage? The past two years have seen sales efforts deviate from tried-and-true methodology. People scrambled to find ways to stay connected to their customer base and often resorted to digital communication. Since so many took this route, a lot of sales individuals simply melded into the white noise of social media, video conferencing and electronic communication. The introverts amongst us loved it; they said, “It’s the way to go. We’ll never have to go to the office again and interact with other humans.”

Sorry, wrong.

The point is this: People want to interact with others. Psychologist after psychologist attests to this fact. Therefore, we need to structure our sales efforts and aggressively implement them. Time to go back to blocking and tackling, covering the basics.

The first step is to make sure your information gathering system is in place and up to date. This will help you in reaching out to potential targets and give you a home for the customer information you collect. The next step is to determine which organizations and associations you want to engage with. Remember, your first criterion in making this selection is the degree of customer involvement present in the group. Focus on customer-rich environments. People are heading back toward these organizations to restart the interaction process. Skipping this step can lengthen the amount of time it will take you to reengage with your customer pool.

The next step is to set your customer targets. These can be existing customers you need to retain or grow, or new targets who haven’t used your product or service in the past. The one thing I promise you is that you’ll see there’s been a personnel changeover in many of these firms. Also, keep in mind that a contact is a person, not a company. Relationships you’ve held onto during the shutdowns and restrictions should be the first face-to-face meetings you schedule. Make sure all is well with those who have hung in there with you. Then move on to the true development of sales. Set a high level of activity and see as many people as possible. Letting competitors get out ahead of you can result in lost opportunity. The floodgates are open. You need to shoot right out of the gate. This can create an initial advantage for you. The old adage; “You snooze, you lose” is a reality in this scenario.

The final step is to actually close the business. Our economy is all over the place currently, and legitimate sales opportunities need to be secured as quickly as possible. Between the financial and political landscapes, the level of uncertainty is increasing. This can slow down construction spending at any point. Nailing down projects you’re being presented now can go a long way in getting over any slowdown. The supply chain and raw material cost factors are real. They have significantly affected efficiency on construction projects. Using these factors as a closing strategy is actually a good idea during this period of time. You’re simply taking a factual situation and relaying it to the client. If the client waits on a project, it may not hit the client’s schedule or your client may end up paying higher prices due to escalating material costs. This is absolutely acceptable sales behavior.

The ultimate point: Now is go time. Don’t be lulled to sleep by the past two years of sales hibernation. Shake off the rust, clean the machine and blast off from the starting line. If you need a refresher, get out those old sales videos or books and hone your approach. True professional businesspeople understand the critical role sales plays in their businesses. It’s only the most important aspect of any business.

Why on earth would you wait on full implementation the minute it is possible? The market is alive.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,, or at 314.775.9217.


Field of Dreams: How to Showcase Your Company’s Best Assets Through Marketing

Stephanie Woodcock


At the time of this writing, I am stranded at a hotel near The University of Massachusetts Amherst for my son’s first college prospect baseball showcase. Our predicament is courtesy of “Henri” making landfall on the New England coast as a category one hurricane for the first time in 30 years. Though it was downgraded to a tropical storm, it was angsty enough to cancel our return flights to St. Louis. Not good. The showcase got moved from the campus’ pristine baseball fields to an upper gymnasium with no air circulation. The camp was reduced from 8 hours to 2.5 hours. The school tour was canceled. The only originally scheduled event was our free lunch at UMass’s “award winning dining hall.” What should have been a delightful campus stroll to lunch morphed into a gusty, mad dash through a torrential downpour. It was a no-frills, soaking wet showcase.  

Let’s not let this happen to you.     

When a company asks me, “What’s the best way to spend my marketing budget?” I say, “Create professional marketing assets that showcase your company’s talent, identity and culture.” I get really excited. “Let’s turn your work into art,” I add.  

“Why?” They react. “Don’t we want to sell, sell, sell? Print up a flyer about our services? Promote our great products with a blast?”  

While these things are important, “No,” I say, smiling. “Sit down. You’re making me nervous.”   

Then I explain how professional, well-executed marketing assets like video and photography can transform a company’s image and brand to showcase the best part of who and what they are. When done right, these marketing tools are elevated to art. They evoke a sense of something bigger than a sales vehicle, while still becoming the engine that drives your sales. 

It’s difficult to convey the culture of a company – the “who” behind the “what.” So much of our business comes through our relationships, longevity in the industry, reputation and referrals. It’s the nature of our industry. We network.  

So how do we extend those relationships in this digital age through our marketing efforts?  

In an age of endless Zoom, Microsoft Teams and digital influences – when everyone is grappling to be heard – production-value video and custom photography tell a deeper story.  These assets provide more long-term, greater traction than the traffic and buzz of today’s next big thing in digital marketing.

Photography and video should portray something intangible about the identity of the companies they showcase. They create brand voice, a major marketing component necessary before unleashing the salespeople with flyers and promotions.

In other words, when you’re inviting a client to come to your proverbial “campus,” we need to show them the green, well-groomed baseball fields before we drag them through the rain to the dining hall. We need to show them our culture and identity – why we are worth doing business with – before we get to the hot upper-level gym.    

I recently asked CEO of Solstice Productions, Amanda Aschinger, how important video is to our marketing. She gave a great answer: 

“There are some set standard expectations in the A/E/C (architecture, engineering and construction) world, such as on time, quality, safety and on budget. What makes one company a better fit for a given project often comes down to the people, the experience and the approach. Construction is a long, sometimes painful and expensive process. The ‘who’ of the team can greatly impact the ‘how.’ Aside from an in-depth in-person session, a well-crafted video is the best way for prospective customers and employees to experience the who and how of your team.” 

Aschinger adds, “Video is not a standalone solution. Like any marketing or sales tactic, it works best when used in a full strategy. All of the channels (social, email, web, trade show) can be made more effective when video plays a role.”  

She recommends a standard package of videos that every A/E/C company should have:

  • Company intro or overview 
  • Capabilities-specific videos (one for each) 
  • Market expertise-specific videos (one for each) 
  • Core values/culture – something that works very well for both business development and recruiting, and is really focused on your people 

Aschinger also recommends highlighting key milestones as part of ongoing video campaigns. Adding a new division, targeting a new vertical, celebrating an anniversary, completing a high-profile or unique project and releasing a new product are all great times to use video to help communicate your wins.

The value of seeing and hearing a company’s faces and voices through video is more than a sales avenue. It is a way to portray a company’s true identity, culture and mission, beyond what we have to sell. In the relationship business, we don’t want to lead with sales slicks, fancy flyers or rock bottom deals. We want to lead with our voices. We want to show, not tell.

My dream clients are ones who need and want content creation. They want to figure out the best way to tell their story and convey their culture. Great marketing educates, energizes and engages. When a story is told right, customers get excited, too. They see the beauty of the campus, the “field of dreams” and can envision their own success. When a story is told right, customers see the company’s best assets and want to “go the distance.”

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Seal the Deal Too, a St. Louis-based marketing, creative and communications firm. She can be reached at


We’re Back in Circulation and Life is Opening Back Up. Now What?

Tom Woodcock

Things are opening up and people are crawling out of their basements. Commerce is coming back to life. We’re beginning to see business after Covid. Even though the construction industry held strong through the various incarnations of lockdowns, business still was not quite as usual.

Now companies will need to reengage their sales strategies.

The big question is this: Exactly how do you accomplish that? The first step is to take a breath. Review what was effective prior to the pandemic and take the successful elements into consideration. Your outside sales effort will still be vital to ongoing success, especially if the market turns in any fashion. By meeting with customers face to face, you can gain a pulse of what’s trending.

The opening of associations and organizations is a good place to begin as you interact with your customer base. Attend consistently and be sure to focus on customer-rich groups. This will allow you to connect with a larger pool of clients and potential clients. Get to as many events as possible and maintain consistent involvement.

Frequenting proven networking groups and events can also reignite your sales mojo. Casual business functions provide the opportunity to be more relaxed and knock off some of the rust.

Oh, you will be rusty. For some, it has been a year since they’ve engaged with customers in any format that doesn’t include a computer screen. It is already becoming apparent that Zoom meetings will not be the differentiator. People who prefer these types of virtual meetings over traditional in-person sales work will be forced into more intense pricing situations and less development of true customer relationships.

Relationship growth is always the differentiator in sales. It increases the level of trust and creates a fertile environment for gaining critical information. Two crucial elements tilt the scales in your favor: 1) The opinion that sales work can now be done from the comfort of one’s home, which is misguided, and 2) That salespeople will be the drivers of businesses’ recovery, which is absolutely true.

As for crucial element number one, if we’re already seeing people taking sales appointments post-pandemic, it’s only a matter of time when those who don’t get out publicly will attract less attention.

I’ve witnessed multiple revolutionary sales trends over the years that eventually fade, and there is a return to the tried-and-true methodology of outside selling.

Covid dealt a severe blow to many in the sales realm. Some were forced to move in new directions, others are coming out of it hungry. Those with an appetite will be aggressive and leave those who are hesitant in the dust. Waiting to see what transpires may seem prudent, but this strategy could put you behind the frontrunners. Markets are a bit unpredictable at the time of this writing; the one thing that will be a constant is that the most active sales personnel will be those who bring the greatest results.

As for crucial element number two, as PPPs, unemployment compensation and backlogs fade, people will become more anxious to produce. Those with the responsibility of selling will need to be the drivers. New business will need to be secured, and there is a great deal of instability in the construction industry. The combination of escalating material costs with tight labor pools can compress opportunity. This will require an expansion of your customer base to cover fluctuations.

Clients who may have previously been consistent, recurring business may no longer be as reliable. Qualifying new customers and beginning the process of winning some of their projects will not happen overnight. Getting in front of them before the rest of the pack could give you an edge.

I feel the need to reiterate that I’m not trying to set a standard for anyone concerning their response to the pandemic. That is an individual choice. I’m simply pointing out what is already becoming apparent: The choice to engage with the customer base is going to prove effective in moving the sales bar. Not all customers will be ready to embrace the return to traditional sales work initially, but plenty are jumping at the chance to get out and reconnect.

The question is this: Are you ready?

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,, or at 314.775.9217.


How Do I Work This Remote? Three Tips to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Marketing Era



Stephanie Woodcock

As we continue embracing digital and virtual marketing strategies, the process can feel like getting a new television remote.  We are pressing the buttons and nothing is happening. This is infuriating. In my home, when someone moves the central Hub and the remote stops working, things get ugly fast. Tempers flare. Arms are raised in despair. Lots of finger pointing occurs. As the de facto IT director, I have to “realign” the Hub so that everything is “connected.” This is accomplished through an app on my phone.

Meanwhile, my husband throws up his hands and blames the device. My kids reject the prospect of watching TV altogether and play Xbox. The family is divided. Each to our separate rooms.

Funnily enough, the remote’s name is Harmony. 

A company’s digital marketing is like the Harmony remote. 

If the hub is not aligned properly and synced with the rest of the devices, all hell breaks loose. It’s normal to wonder how to get to this blissful state of alignment. How do we work this thing and keep it humming? How do we maximize its efficiency? How do we keep everyone in the same room? Marketing, sales, operations, accounting – all departments need to be on board with the digital marketing tools.

Social media, email campaigns, banner ads, search engine optimization, Pay Per Click, Search Engine Marketing. The list goes on and on. They are all different buttons available on a digital remote. 

Here are three tips to help you embrace and navigate virtual marketing:

  1. Make your website the hub of your digital marketing. All channels should be aligned to drive traffic to the website. If your lead generation is accomplished through an email marketing campaign of industry news, videos and feature projects, connect these emails to related content on your website. Your website is the gatekeeper to your digital marketing goals. When you get someone new on your website, you want him or her to have a good experience. You want your visitor to read a blog post, watch an explainer video and engage with the content. Use landing pages to enhance the experience and clear call-to-action buttons to encourage engagement. Half the battle is getting customers to your website. Don’t lose them there.
  •   Know your main digital marketing channels and use them wisely. Our marketing budget is a finite resource. In this digital world where options seem infinite, selecting the best channel can seem daunting. From guest blogging as an industry expert (content marketing) to running a drip marketing campaign through email (email marketing), the list of options is endless. Don’t try to do them all at once. Pick a few strategies that work best with your overall goals. To simplify, here are the six main buckets digital marketing channels fall into and a brief description of each:

1) Website/SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

2) Social media posts (building an audience organically)

3) Social media ads (getting clicks through sponsored content)

4) SEM/PPC (search engine marketing and Pay Per Click)

5) Email marketing (direct email campaigns)

6) Content marketing (guest blogging, article submissions, PR campaigns)

Each channel has pros and cons. What are your goals? Do you want to increase brand awareness? Do you want to drive traffic to your website or increase quote opportunities? Do you want to attract the best talent for employment, raise the profile of your company’s services, highlight industry awards or be an expert in your field with guest articles? Each goal requires a different channel and strategy. Some companies benefit most from Google ads, some from growing their social media presence organically and some from direct email campaigns to existing customers. The size of your company, ways you get business, lead generation goals and overall brand health are all factors to consider when laying out a strategy.

        3  Don’t ignore your brand. The word “brand” can be interchanged with “reputation.” How do your customers view your business? Acclaimed marketing guru Marty Neumeier says: “A brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.Branding is not a buzzword for marketers. It is the art of trying to steer your reputation in the right direction. My job as a marketing consultant consists mainly of reframing companies’ brands into an intentional brand versus an accidental brand. Then we create the best strategy to portray that intentionalbrandthrough specific channels.

A brand should be aligned with a digital marketing strategy. Virtual marketing is a brand (reputation) first and foremost. Before we start playing with all the buttons on the remote, we must create a strong visual with clear copy. By creating a true representation of our brand before implementing various digital marketing channels, we increase our chances of “alignment” and success.

It’s like that television show you want to watch with your family. The remote can be connected and the Hub aligned. But if what’s actually on the TV isn’t inspiring? In the same vein, if your customer doesn’t see strong visual with clear copy, he or she will just turn off the message. And we’ll all go to our separate rooms.

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Seal the Deal Too, a St. Louis-based marketing, creative & communications firm. She can be reached at


Sales Professionals: Challenge Yourself to Go Beyond the Virtual into the Actual



Tom Woodcock

So, we’ve moved into the virtual age of sales, eh? Personal relationship is non-existent now, right? Outside sales is a thing of the past, correct?

I beg to differ. The COVID era has moved the bar, but don’t think for a second you can abandon tried and true sales practices.

Whether you agree or not is irrelevant. Personal sales contact is alive and well. Due to the pandemic, my speaking schedule has all but disappeared. I’ve gone back into the world of selling. I am now literally practicing what I preach.

Guess what? It still works! Prospecting, entertaining, networking and aggressive customer contact is still effective. I’m averaging 40 to 50 face-to-face meetings a month. Some reps don’t even Zoom that much.

What I’m seeing is the easy excuse that people aren’t meeting. Hmmm, maybe they aren’t meeting because they don’t want to meet with you. Customers are hesitant to take meetings with individuals who have zero interest factors. If I’m going to make a commitment to see you face to face, you’d better give me a good reason to do so. Either you have a real, tangible value for me as the customer or you’re flat out fun to be with. The more people are cloistered, the more they’ll want to get out.

The question is this: Will you be the vehicle to bring customers back out into the light?

I recently met with a new account and delivered chocolate covered strawberries to their team. Old school, right? Guess what? When their next need arose, I got the business. Sure, I did the basics of presentation and follow-up, but I was the only person to think of them personally.

You see, virtual is completely impersonal. Everyone becomes an image. You’re no different than the meme they saw on social media. Plus, your competitor was on screen just before you, meaning there’s absolutely no competitive separation. This drives commerce to a price-based dynamic. Everyone is simply a video presentation, no strawberries.

The one thing I’ve learned in 30-plus years of selling is this: People like to be acknowledged. Being nice enhances loyalty. The nicer you are, the more critical information you get. The virtual generation may never learn this lesson. As I incorporate young sales reps into my network, I’m shocked how line by line they are, almost robotic in their approach. They can’t tell a joke, have no idea how to compliment someone and are cheaper than Ebenezer Scrooge! I can run sales circles around these rookies.

The point is this: Don’t believe the press that sales work is now a virtual discipline. That is a false premise. You know why? People are not virtual. They are real and need human interaction. The sales reps who reach out personally will now stand out. Let the rest be lost in the wasteland of virtual reality.

Personal interaction will always be the most effective way of selling. Regardless of what the tech giants tell you, the reality is obvious. The more that salespeople gravitate toward virtual selling, the more I will strive to get face to face with clients. Hey, I understand the pressure to conform to virtual and the shift toward marketing. It takes courage to go against the grain.

Bottom line: The reward is substantially greater for those who will not relinquish traditional sales methodology. I know many will disagree with this premise, but I’m witnessing it firsthand. There is merit in being cautious, and I respect that. I’m simply pointing out what is effective in this sales climate. That is, for all intents and purposes, my job. I know many reps are frustrated and struggling. My advice is to look under every bush, keep pursuing clients and don’t give up on the sales principles that work. Sooner or later, it will break for you. Honor customers who are foregoing personal contact and connect with those who are open to it.

The choice is yours. I cannot make that call for you. Ultimately, it will still come down to the trust in relationship that your customers have that will tilt the decision scales. Challenge yourself to go beyond the virtual into the actual!

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,, or at (314)775.9217.


Top 10 Major Marketing Mistakes That Cost You Money



I recently purchased a Peloton bike.  I was doubtful at first. Will this become an expensive clothes hanger? Will I feel like going to my basement to literally spin my wheels?

Stephanie Woodcock

After setting up my subscription service with customer care, they said, “Welcome to the Peloton family.” Oh wow. We’re family now? Okay? I didn’t quite get it.

Then I took a ride. The virtual live class takes over the screen and you become part of this enthusiastic community. You’re swept away by the vibrance of this brightly dressed and animated instructor telling you that you are the best. You are a warrior. Royalty. And how great you will feel after this climb interval. As a first-time skeptic, it was exhilarating. 

The bike itself didn’t motivate me, however pretty it looks in my laundry room. But the live classes with upbeat music did. The unique, on-demand classes and celebrity-like instructors made all the difference in my desire to use the bike.

In many ways, our marketing is like this bike. If it stays dormant and unused, it’s just an expensive piece of equipment that cost you a lot of money with little to no results. 

We’ve got to spin it to win it. 

Are you winning in your marketing plan, or are you spinning your wheels? 

Following are my top 10 major marketing mistakes that cost you money:

#1 Your website is static, out-of-date, not mobile friendly or too detailed with industry terms.

User experience matters. In this virtual environment, your website is a good investment. Since 2011, smartphone usage has increased from 35 percent to more than 80 percent. People buy, look up contact information, products and services on their smartphones. Gain momentum by capitalizing on this here-to-stay trend. Think of your site as a catalog or phone book in the palm of your client’s hand. 

#2 Your marketing content is not visually appealing.

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than plain text. About 90 percent of all information transmitted into and through the brain is visual. Too many people think they can do their own marketing content, yet they fail. Do not make your human resources department tackle marketing or attempt to do graphic design. Would you let a random person cut your hair? No. Image matters. Graphic design is a science as well as an art. Best to leave it to the experts. 

#3 You neglect your company’s online presence.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. You need to be connecting with your audience, customer base, influencers, employees and peripheral base. LinkedIn is a good place to start.  This is the place to share, network, see and be seen. If you don’t even go to the party, you’ll never be seen. And your website will remain in static Internet purgatory. 

#4 You’re not clearly stating what makes your company different.

Messaging is even more important now in our virtual age. Using industry jargon or feel-good statements does no one any favors, and we all come to a screeching halt. Try not to be too technical or vague in describing what makes you different. 

#5 You have no story that connects with the audience.

Draw in your client with a question that opens a story loop in the mind. For A/E/C companies, this is usually a problem that you can help solve. Instead of telling people what they need, open a story loop and compel them to want answers.

#6 You are not properly executing public relations campaigns.

This is KEY for our A/E/C industry. Promoting your company’s achievements through consistent PR campaigns helps further your brand. Highlight project completions, newsworthy events, award wins and nominations, industry news and employee promotions.

#7 You are not maximizing association involvement.

Even in this virtual age, membership involvement is key. Host a webinar. Sponsor digital events, websites and events, when they come back. If you are going to sponsor a big association event, have enough of a presence with people and support material.

#8 You’re building a Cadillac website but have no one to drive it. 

Companies too often make a sizable investment in a new website but have no marketing plan so that it gets noticed. “If you build it, they will come” does not apply in this case. Increase engagement and drive traffic to the site with social media, electronic marketing, SEO and SEM.

#9 You are focusing solely on customer acquisition.

Success rates of selling to a new customer fall somewhere between 5 percent to 20 percent while the success rate for retaining existing customers is 60 percent to 70 percent. Spending the majority of your budget on customer acquisition versus customer retention is yet another costly mistake many businesses make.

#10 Your marketing does not connect to a real sales plan.

The two go hand in hand. A marketing plan without sales engagement is like a bike without wheels. You may have a great seat and all the right tools for the ride, but you won’t go anywhere. Marketing should warm up cold leads and gather new ones.

Just like with any workout, consistency, planning and execution is key. 2021 is the time to get back in the saddle. These are just the basics. We have to plan the ride before we start it. And in the words of Peloton instructor Denis Morton, “Start Now. If you wait until the time’s right, you’ll wait forever.”

Stephanie Woodcock is president of Seal the Deal Too, a St. Louis-based marketing, creative & communications firm. She can be reached at


Altering Your Sales Approach in This Climate



Tom Woodcock

Sales trainers and consultants around the country are trying to pull rabbits out of their hats. How do you teach traditional sales techniques to contractors in a non-traditional business environment?

Answering that question is a daunting task. I’ll take a stab at it. As I watch and experience what is taking place in this sales climate due to the virus issue, election season and mercurial economic conditions, I’ve noticed a couple trends.

Trend #1: Zoom meetings are leveling the playing field. There are few ways to gain competitive separation when people are meeting from their home offices and kitchen tables. Plus, video fatigue is very real and growing. To combat this, it is critically important to be prepared, upbeat and interesting. If you just go through the motions when you jump on a video sales call, you blend in with the digital white noise.

Have some humor ready, look fantastic, mind your background and for goodness sake, make eye contact. Keep your traditional sales principles in place and achieve some level of commitment by the call’s end. Anything you would do in a physical, face-to-face meeting, do the same in a video call…you can even buy lunch! Have it delivered if your customer is willing and eat together online. You need to be creative to catch attention.

Trend #2: Virtual meetings are losing a level of professionalism. The more relaxed environment of a home office can breed a false sense of security. What happens around you on a call can distract your client. Drop the ocean background video. That’s not standing out. That’s unprofessional. You should be the interest factor, above all else. People are still buying from you, and they have an expectation that you function with the same level of professionalism as you did prior to this season of virtual interaction.

Trend #3: Confrontational topics abound. Stay away from them. Election results, religious points and perspectives on virus numbers can alienate your client. Even if your client or prospect brings up these topics, do your best to avoid the trap. I’m seeing too many salespeople make political statements and judgments that can erect a wall between them and their customers. I respect your opinion, but I really don’t need to hear it during a business setting. Many digital platforms are diving very negatively; selling with the same demeanor can kill your transactions.

Here’s a key to achieving sales success in this climate: Be strong in the vehicles and channels you have available, but always be looking to get as close to normal as possible. Determine what is an acceptable format for you with regard to meeting with customers face-to-face, attending association meetings and networking. After you have done so, look for opportunities that fit into that format. Find clients who are willing to meet face-to-face. It may take more contacts than usual to develop a full roster of meetings, but if it’s important to you, then make the calls.

I’m seeing too many people giving up on sales efforts and focusing solely on their marketing. Though I strongly believe in aggressive marketing programs, you can’t quit on your sales efforts. I’m not here to set your personal standards; I’m only relaying what is working. Individuals who are still getting out and meeting are seeing results. Whether you agree or not with that fashion of sales work in this era, it’s just a fact.

I also understand that different markets have differing restrictions. Staying within those guidelines and effectively meeting with clients is feasible. Unfortunately, this is the world we currently live in – yet commerce is moving forward. Construction predictions are all over the board. That said, the more sales activity you can enact, the greater chance you can secure projects regardless of the economic or political climate.

Good sales work endures. Relationships established prior to these events will cut through the uncertainty. I’ve been selling and teaching people to sell for decades. The one constant is that those who look for every angle to get in front of customers end up being the top performers. There are currently plenty of reasons to explain poor sales performance; just don’t let them become excuses. Digging in and fighting through difficult circumstances is what the champions do. There is business opportunity out there if you look hard and use a disciplined approach. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for a different set of eyes on your sales direction and take some constructive criticism from that individual.

This is a time to roll up your sales sleeves and find answers. Those who overcome can still experience success and growth. The companies that settle for down years will have exactly that. Whether you agree or disagree with the methodology I’ve stated is immaterial. The facts are apparent. You can achieve sales results in a pandemic, during an election year and in the midst of an economic uncertain business climate. Just do what you know you have to do to achieve it.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,, or at 314.775.9217.

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