“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” -Warren Buffett
There is a really good story in the book Influence by Robert Cialdini that I really like about a waiter who, whenever waiting on a big table always tells the 1st person who is ready to order that whatever they picked “wasn’t quite as good tonight as usual”, then suggest 2 other things that are slightly cheaper. By doing this, others at the table feel like he is extremely trustworthy and by doing this he has also established himself as an authority…at this point, he can then suggest a high priced wine and dessert and they will feel he isn’t trying to swindle them.
When people see a salesperson coming, they run! When they see a trusted adviser they embrace them. Earn trust – before people buy products or services, they buy trust. Strive to find some common ground.
Demonstrate you understand your customers pains, problems, and concerns before you ever try to sell them anything. Listen, listen, listen (if you are as bad at it as me sometimes, try this)! Don’t be afraid of losing the sale…be afraid of attracting a customer you don’t have any business supporting…when it all goes sideways, you won’t be able to recover. Under Promise and Over Deliver…especially in the beginning. That foundation of trust is crucial and is extremely easy to build upon once it’s there, but without it, you are building a relationship on quicksand.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden
“If I say it you can doubt me, if you say it, it is true”
In Selling, Step 1, I stated that most importantly of all is qualifying the customer. You can’t and shouldn’t be trying to sell something to someone with no desire or means. Once you are past that step, what are the best ways to get in front of customers to sell, well, I’d argue it is in finding others that are more than happy to sell for you.
Now this may sound like I am the laziest salesperson in the world by trying to get other people to do my work for me, and while you may be right, there are some sound reasons for taking this approach. Some of these are:
- Sometimes you may have a partner (distributor, rep, etc) that has a better relationship with a particular customer than you… give them the proper tools, information, and motivation and that will be a much easier customer for you to access once they’ve been approached already by a trusted friend
- It is much harder to turn down a request from a friend than a salesperson (examples: MCI friends and family, Tupperware, Rodan & Fields). Why were all of these successful…because no stranger was coming knocking on your door asking you to buy, you were being approached by someone you already trusted.
- How much more can you sell if everything doesn’t have to go through you first…multiplying yourself by bringing others onto your side to help you is how you get your sales to grow exponentially. If everything has to go through you, you are severely limited.
OK, makes sense, and maybe I can give it a whirl, but what next. What are some ways to do this:
- Get recommendations from current customers… especially first-time buyers (treat them special)… they are more inclined to talk about their experience. Customers are usually happiest right after buying… this is the best time to ask
- Give people that want to help you an easy way to do this…give them business cards, discount offers they can pass to friends, or give them a discount for helping you find other customers. Social Media is phenomenal for this…discount codes on Instagram and Facebook abound and giving someone good content to share also translates extremely well to LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Go old school with this “Selling to Vito” technique. Find six people in a company that you feel would be the best influencers for what you are selling. Write a letter to each with a cc to the other five on top. When they receive the letter, they will talk to the other five to make sure all are on the same page… someone will get assigned to you. This gets all six talking about you.
Any of these steps should help, but just about anything is better than cold calling. At the end of the day, you are just trying to multiply yourself… can you create content others will gladly spread for you? Who can you enlist to sell for you gladly: friends, family, coworkers, distributors, reps, customers, partners, and maybe even non-direct competitors.
If I am really happy with someone’s service or product I am more than happy to extol their virtues for them…there is a reason there is a YELP and Google Reviews and why people post pictures of their favorite restaurants, food, clothes etc. on Instagram and Facebook…people like to help those with whom they’d like to be associated and they also like to feel like they are in the know. Make it easier for them to help you spread the word. That’s the way you create separation from your competition!
How many times have you been over-promised and under-delivered…it happens daily, so if you really want to create separation, be the exception!
Getting that first order is hard, you want to make sure that you give them a reason to come back for that second order as well. Even if your business sells big one and done items like a pool or a house, you still need those referrals. Maybe a follow up with a 10% discount as a thank you? Maybe a discount for a referral? Maybe give them a coupon to hand out to friends who need your services (winner for both of them!).
Make it impossible not to refer you because you more than did what you promised!
All salespeople aren’t created equal! Starting with that premise, realize that different people have different strengths…play to those strengths.
In the sales arena, there are a multitude of needs, so try to match the right person to your actual need: Do you need a rainmaker, do you need a hunter, do you need a farmer, do you need someone more technical, more social, etc. Let’s take a quick look at some of these:
- Hunter: this is a salesperson particularly good at finding and bringing in new prospects. They may not be as good at keeping them, so do what you can to help them bring the customers in, hand them off properly, and allow them to move on to the next ones.
- Farmer: this is a salesperson that does a great job of cultivating those customers once they are on board. They are great at long term relationships and at getting more out of those existing customers. They also are usually spending so much time cultivating that they don’t have time to spend on looking for new customers…once again a reason for splitting hunters and farmers.
- Rainmaker: this is a salesperson that can generate lots of sales, seemingly out of thin air, for you in a relatively quick timeframe. They are usually very expensive. Make sure they can really do what they say before you bring them on and secondly make sure you can handle the additional business if they are successful. While hunters are great at chasing lots of new potential customers, a rainmaker is looking to land one or two whoppers.
You need to figure out what your needs are and then you need to put the right people in the right roles. You also need to figure out how you are going to fill these roles…hiring from outside (even from your competitors) or growing them up through your organization. Sometimes you need a little of both, but a healthy bench is extremely important…always know where you are going to pull from next.
For new lead follow up, you may even assign a person or team to doing nothing but this and then have them hand off once the customer is on-boarded. Remember: you have to respond to new leads asap (know this: 70% of the time people choose the real estate agent who called them back first!)…you really need a plan here.
One last piece of advice…just because you have a great salesperson with great ambition that doesn’t mean that he needs to become your sales manager. Many really good sales people are terrible managers and vice versa. Think about it this way: if you had a star football running back would you make him a coach or hire more blockers instead?
Happy Hunting, Farming, and Rainmaking!
Qualify those customers before all else, and as Yoda might have said, do it not and waste endless hours of your life! Improper qualification of potential customers can get you wasting precious time on someone with no potential ROI.
You will never make a sale if you are selling the wrong customer or even trying to sell the wrong person within the right customer. You have to work your way to the proper decision maker. Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself:
- Does this person have the authority to make the decision (you need to realize that title does not mean authority)?
- Do they have money?
- Do they have the desire?
If you can’t answer “Yes” to all of the above, you might want to think twice before investing a lot of time here.
Scarcity increases demand. Consider: people fall in love with those who could care less, banks give money to those that don’t need it, and people don’t want to go to a party if you are begging them (clubs and restaurants make fake lines out the door while having plenty of empty tables inside), etc. It is a funny law of human behavior.
As a rule, if an item is rare or becoming rare, it is more valuable. As something becomes less available to us, we feel loss of freedom and that makes us want it even more. Think about the times that someone has tried to keep you from taking the time to think a deal over by scaring you into believing you can’t have it later because the thing you want will probably be gone…what is your response (probably depends on how badly you want it).
Here are some ways this is used against us everyday:
- Companies like Apple complain that they can never fully satisfy demand
- Bitcoin: US $ can be printed, but there are only so many Bitcoin to be had
- Salesmen push for you to buy now as another person wants to buy it too… no time to wait
- Politicians may say something detrimental to them has been censored so they can’t speak about it (now we really want to know)
- Declarations of inadmissibility in the courtroom usually have opposite effects on jurors
- Auctions: sometimes they tend to a bidding frenzy beyond all reason…if the other guy wants it that bad then I want it more
2 really great experiments in the book Influence by Robert Cialdini:
- Beef in short supply: a control was asked to buy beef and told nothing. Another was told of a future scarcity and bought two times as much. However, the customers that were told individually of this “exclusive” information bought 6X as much. The fact that the news of the scarcity was made scarce was even more persuasive.
- Cookie shortage: participants were given cookies… both groups were told that the organizers had to take some back but one group was told it was because of a mistake and the other was told because they were in high demand by other testers. The ones in the highest demand were deemed by all to be more valuable and desirable.
One way to maintain long term demand for your product is to never totally satisfy the demand. This applies to dealing with people as well. Make yourself less accessible and you increase the value of your presence…the ardor of an indifferent lover surges with the appearance of a rival.
Here’s a good starting place for creating a little separation between you and your competitors…choose your clients as carefully as you choose your friends. If you properly target your clients, you will discover that you no longer have to work with A-holes. However, you have to have a concrete picture of what that ideal customer looks like. You have to know what your customers are attempting to solve when they buy your product/service. What are you really selling… peace of mind, status, pain relief? You need an ideal prospect profile: what they want + their problem + how they buy + the best way to communicate with them… why do people buy what you’re selling?!
Who is NOT your ideal customer?
Once you know who is your ideal customer, now it is time to ID those that are not. Some customers may have been a bad fit from the start, but in many cases it is just that your customers’ needs have changed over time and so has your focus… what once may have been beautiful just doesn’t work anymore. You need to ID these customers. Who are the customers that you no longer make a profit on, don’t respect the value you bring, don’t pay on time, and overall just don’t do their part. If you don’t root them out they can destroy your entire business.
It is a big world out there… you can proudly leave out 99% of it! It is completely okay to confidently exclude people and proudly say what you are not. Also know that when your target 1% hears you excluding the other 99%, they will become even more enamored with you.
Get rid of duds
Get rid of your dud clients. You don’t have to fire them but you do have to find a better fit… you may even be able to refer them to a colleague who may be a better fit. All relationships naturally cycle, those that are a good fit today may not be so tomorrow. Try to filter out unsuitable clients upfront… tell potential customers what you are/aren’t in your marketing and sales material
Now, hyperfocus on those ideal customers…who are your 1,000 True Fans?!
Make it crystal clear in every thing you do who is/isn’t your ideal client and watch your revenues and profits climb and headaches disappear.