This weekend I was at a school event and I happened to bump into an old friend of mine named Chris. Besides being the life of the party and an over all great guy, Chris is one of the top sales people for the company he works for (he probably uses Spiro). As we talked for a while, Chris told me a story about his experience with a recent sale. His story brought a few things to mind that are extremely important no matter what industry you work in.
Chris had been interested in a particular client for years, who unfortunately did business with one of his main competitors. Chris took the time to study the client’s work and got to know a bit about their company. He stayed in touch with them in a polite and professional way, by sending the occasional email or calling them on the phone. He checked in on how they were doing and if they were happy with their current provider. He always had information on hand for this client and made a few offers to them, being patient, but never demanding.
Eventually, Chris decided he needed to put in a bit more effort in order to show the client that he was truly interested in helping them. He called and talked with his main contact at the company and offered to fly out to Las Vegas to buy her lunch; he just wanted her to give him a chance. The prospective client was taken back by this offer. She relented and he flied out to Las Vegas and treated her to lunch.
During the meal, she confessed to him that even though she had been working with his archrival competitor for 10 years, she had never met a single person, let alone had lunch with them. Chris wasn’t even sure what to say, to him, meeting people in person and doing kind things for them was just a part of the business. Eventually, this client gave Chris the opportunity to show her his services, and started with a small purchase from Chris’ company. He gave it his all and really impressed the client and she began talking of a big future with him.
This story brings a few key points into focus:
Chris took the time to learn about his potential client’s business and even though she kindly refused a few times, he stuck with it. He wanted to show her that she was important to him and that he wasn’t going to back down easily. This is often what will win a client over. By keeping in touch, always following up, and never really disappearing from their view, it will keep you on their minds and show them you have the endurance for the long haul. It will prove that you are able to keep up with them.
Even though you may not think taking a client to lunch is really out of the ordinary, for this client, it was. Finding new and inventive ways to “wow” your potential clients can send the message that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make them happy. In this particular case, traveling to take a client to lunch showed that Chris was willing to do whatever it takes to earn the company’s business.
You Are In a People Business
Despite what anyone might try to tell you about sales, it’s never just about selling a product. It’s about creating a relationship with people. You have to be able to communicate and anticipate the needs of your clients. If you can talk to the client like they are a real individual with individual needs, you’re halfway there. Everyone wants to know they are special and that you believe in what they do, what they want, or who they are. Being a people person will get you much farther than simply selling products.
You might think that these sales techniques are very obvious, but how often do you practice them? In talking with hundreds of sales reps in the course of designing our awesome new product, we’ve learned that sales professionals have so much going on, that they sometimes forget the basics.