Over the years, when people asked what I worked at and I told them “sales” I reckon that sometimes they would conjure a picture in their heads of dodgy characters such as “Delboy” (Only Fools and Horses), “Arthur Daley” (Minder) or even Jordan Belfort (the Wolf of Wall Street).
Although pushy people like these gave sales a bad name, I knew it wasn’t personal. I am thankful that sales has developed a lot over the years where we now focus on “relationship selling” by putting the customer at the centre of the experience. This has taught me the importance of living by key principles which I would like to share with you:
Know your customers inside out – Get to know your customers. I don’t just mean learn about their immediate needs at the time of the sale. Learn about their business, their plans and objectives long term and how your product/ service fits in the picture. Find out why they are want it; how it will help them personally and what is important to them as people. Without being too personal get to know a little about them as individuals, what they are interested in and what they like to do.
Look out for other opportunities for your client – familiarise yourself with thir marketplace. Not only will you learn about their competitors and the business, you can find out what is happening that may be of interest to them. If you see opportunities they can avail of, let them know. Send them interesting articles, tell them about upcoming conferences and other possibilities you come across.
Be prepared to give, before you get – sometimes you need to do little things for customer to WOW them. I am not talking about bringing them for expensive 5 star dinners or giving them a massive discount off the price. It is about building value and being flexible when they need you. This might include making that extra call to give them support or offer advise, perhaps making a call after hours or even hand delivering the order yourself.
Look out for leads for your clients - Sitting in a client’s office a few years ago, a customer told me they needed help with a particular part of their business. Interestingly I happened to be talking to another company who worked in this area, so I offered an introduction. When I called the prospect, I immediately explained I had a lead for them and was not calling about my proposed training. They were delighted; they set up the meeting and got the business. From my own perspective, I had been struggling to pin the prospect down to dates for training. However they were so happy, they chased me back to give me the business. So, be prepared to think outside the box and help.
Finally, be prepared to say no to the sale – there are times when you meet a potential customer, you have the chat, make the presentation and then realise it’s not the right fit or time for them. When you get this gut feeling, tell the prospect it’s not right for them and be prepared to walk away. They may be surprised, but will thank you in the long run. And often you’ll find they’ll be the first to recommend you because of your sincerity and honesty.
I firmly believe if we live by these principles, not only will we have a clear conscience, we will be able to sleep at night. And if we care about our customers and treat them respectively, honestly and fairly, we will stand out as people they will want to do business with.