Why so many firms sell themselves so badly… and how they can change

Since he established Liverpool’s Verb Marketing six years ago Dean Currall has generated £25m in extra sales for his clients – here he reveals how you can transform your company’s sales performance

sales. presentation, business, office
Too many sales presentations just send people to sleep, says Dean Currall


Over the years I have been to many places and businesses, I’ve sat in many boardrooms and offices and what I have discovered is that people are selling their services badly. They have no idea how to market themselves.

They come out with boring pitches and uninspiring presentations which may list what they do as a business, but not how that will benefit their clients. Businesses need to consider the customer. Start there, build your pitch and content, and then work backwards.

People sell their services more than they sell their benefits

What you want to do is highlight what you’re going to do for someone else. I, for example, would never say “Verb is a digital marketing agency”. What I would say is “Verb makes businesses money”. I would then explain how I will make them money and show them how I’ve made others money.

I believe you can always tell when a business isn’t selling itself properly. For example, if you go on a business website and it has a description such as “We were founded in 1974 by… and we are dedicated to…” No one cares about this stuff. No one cares about who started your business and in what warehouse or garage.

If you are self-indulgent enough to think your business is as important to other people as it is to you, then you are crazy.

Doing this leads to an inherent belief that your business is just as important as their own, but you are mis-selling what you think they want. Don’t think how do I sell my business? I know I’ll just go out and tell people about it. Talking directly at someone about things they really don’t give a shit about is boring. Especially so when people use a lot of technical and insular language that people don’t understand.

They will zone out and not pay attention to anything you have to say and you’ll have lost the sale. People who do this are working from the wrong perspective, they are working from their own viewpoint forward, rather than the customer backward. Consider what would the customer want to hear? What will impress them?

People do care about how much money you have made your customers, what case studies you can provide them, how you have excelled in the past and why it is they should pick you. These are the things that absolutely should be in the content you are providing on your website. This is how you sell yourself. 

Selling services is something people use as a defence mechanism. I often find that people are not natural presenters or speakers and only do it because they have to. Many people are usually incredibly uncomfortable speaking in front of people, and the bigger the number the more uncomfortable they get.

This means the person’s clarity of thought is not very good when they are stood in front of lots of people. Therefore, when they are putting their presentation together, they put in things they think might be useful and that are easy to remember and recite. As a result, their presentations are boring and sound overly rehearsed, which makes people switch off.

sales. presentation, business, office
Many people are usually incredibly uncomfortable speaking in front of people – and it shows


I went to one presentation that was so bad it actually made me angry. This man put a chart behind him of all the comparative costs of every internet provider that month and proceeded to go through every single price with us. He did this because he thought this was important and it was interesting to him, but more importantly, he didn’t know what else to say. He had always worked off the philosophy that what he does is boring so what he is going to present will be boring too.

I hear solicitors and accountants especially say things all the time such as “I can’t do social media because it’ll be too boring”. And when you ask why they say “It’s just law isn’t it?’. “It’s very dry” is what they usually say. People give up before they’ve even tried because they focus on the technical or the mundane side of it.

If you spend a bit of time actually looking at it and think from a customer’s perspective you can make it interesting and readable. Take law, for example, you could be the person helping a mother get out of an abusive relationship with a husband or you can protect someone for being sued for defamation. How about writing an opinion piece on rape cases like the one recently with Ronaldo; ‘why do celebrities get away with this sort of stuff?’ Would you read that? I know I would.

Offer people interesting and compelling content

The RAC is a great example, they do this really well. They know that roadside cover is boring. They understand people don’t want to read about this in detail. So on their website, their approach is ‘let’s not talk about the roadside cover, let’s talk about what’s annoying about other drivers’ and ‘myths about driving’ and ‘let’s discuss speed limits and traffic cameras’ – these are things people will want to read and discuss. This gets more interest than roadside cover.

Then when they have people on their website reading these articles, there’s a little advert and a form on the side with ‘roadside cover from £4.50 a month, three months half price’ and the person will think oh that’s a good deal, or whilst I’m here actually I do need roadside cover. This is how you sell. 

The philosophy that underpins what is wrong with many businesses is looking at it from the perspective that their industry is boring, that only they are interested in it, that it’s too ‘dry.’ If you think like this you’ve already lost the game. Businesses are selling themselves wrong because they cannot get out of the barrier of their own business. It’s all about flipping the context on its head.

Accountants, for example, can write a blog on tax havens and how Lewis Hamilton got the British taxpayers to pay for half of his private jet. How do these things exist and how do people get away with it? This is interesting. Do I care about tax? No. But do I care that in 2014 I paid more money in corporate tax that Facebook did? Yes, I do. How can this be, and why did this happen? I would read about that and I’m pretty sure you would too.

Dean Currall
Dean Currall, founder and managing director of Liverpool city centre-based Verb Marketing


Businesses aren’t thinking about how to convert leads

Many businesses do not know how to convert leads into actual sales. They may be writing blogs and producing content but when someone lands on their page they haven’t set up the necessary facilities to be able to get the customer to pick up the phone, take some data from them, or consider what part of the journey they’re at. These businesses are just thinking of people as leads, and the most dangerous thing you can do is not consider that leads are actually people.

Someone who thinks their website with a bit of information and a contact button is enough is just thinking about leads. If you think about actual people you may look at your website one day and go ‘This is shit, what point is this serving? Who is this helping?’.

It could have a lot of technical language that’s hard to understand, or long chunks of information that is boring and tedious. Many people only write content because Google told them to and aren’t thinking who actually wants to read this? A website needs to be user-friendly and make people actually want to engage and work with you.

Leads are different for every object, sale, circumstance, every industry, every demographic, place, area, there are so many different factors to them. If you think more about the circumstances of your customer you will sell better.

For example, if I was a solicitor who wanted to sell divorce settlements, I would write content along the lines of ’10 things you need to know about keeping your child in a divorce’.

I’d write this and put it on my website as a free PDF downloadable document. When you click on it a box pops up saying ‘we need your email address.’ You’d do this because then you have some information, she’s a potential client but she may not be ready to act on anything yet. She’s just in the stage where she wants to find out her rights.

At this stage, you want to be first in the door, so when she is ready to act you will be first on her mind. If you don’t have anything to grab their attention they’ll go on the website and leave. But if you offer that downloadable document, they’ll have it there. Maybe a couple of months down the line when she’s ready to act she’ll think you know what these people know what they’re talking about and they gave me something for free, I’ll give them a call.

Mass advertising

Another thing I see people do a lot, which doesn’t work well, is mass advertising. I’m still amazed today that I’m seeing newspaper adverts for local companies. If you’re McDonald’s and you’ve just spent £100,000 on a Daily Mail campaign for the next month, I get it, it’s brand awareness and you can do it, you have the money.

But if you are a small local business with a controlled budget and you’re spending your money on newspaper adverts, that’s ridiculous. People are doing this because they’ve thought to themselves this is going to reach this many people and by default, I’m going to sell. This can’t be guaranteed. Just because a certain amount of people buy that newspaper, it does not mean they are going to see or pay attention to your advert. 

Newspaper, advert
Newspaper display ads just aren’t effective any more, says Dean


Think about this for a second. Can you remember the last time you opened a newspaper, saw an advert, ripped out the page, wrote down the details and did something about it? If you have, have you done it twice? I bet you won’t remember, because you probably haven’t.

The vehicle for this advertising does not work. If it doesn’t work on you, why would it work on anyone else? Mass advertising is a waste of money, especially in this day and age where people are so overwhelmed with advertising every day, they have become desensitised to it.

Remember to always think from the customer backwards. And when you come to market your business always remember:

  • Always think from the customers perspective backwards.
  • Highlight what you are going to do for the customer, sell the benefits.
  • Make your pitches interesting and to the point.
  • Don’t use technical and insular language.
  • It’s all about flipping the context on its head. Everyone can find something interesting to write about which will draw people in.
  • Remember leads are people.
  • Make your website user friendly, engaging, offer the customer something, and give people a reason to go with your business.
  • Don’t waste money on mass advertising. It doesn’t work. 

Businesses market themselves wrong at every stage. They waste money on outdated marketing strategies. They go wrong with the pitching. They go wrong with the content. Then if they do get them right, they aren’t converting. Follow the tips I’ve provided here and trust me; you will see the improvements it makes to your sales.



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