Several years ago my wife and I enlisted a real estate agent to sell a house. The transaction went well, however, the agent made one fundamental mistake that taught me a valuable lesson and cost him any future referrals from us. As soon as the transaction was finished, we never saw that agent again. No thank you card, no wine, not even a thanks for your business. The last time I spoke to him was on the phone at the lawyer’s office to confirm the completion of the deal. We believe the agent made a mistake with his lack of follow through on what was obviously a significant transaction for us. It was a small thing, but something we haven’t forgotten even 10 years on. We have told that story many times and I can guarantee it has cost this agent opportunities.
About the same time, I also learnt a valuable lesson about business. On this occasion, my company was contracted by a client of ours to supply a large order for their client, who needed the product for a big event. On a Friday evening, we were contacted by the end user to say that there was a problem with the product, which was a potential disaster as the event started in the morning. They had unsuccessfully tried to contact the supplier, who had shut down for the weekend.
So, this Friday night we went out to where the event was being held and after a couple of hours we solved the issue. At the time we believed it was our mistake, so it was the least we could do. My client called me on Monday to say they couldn’t believe we had given up our Friday night to solve what turned out to be their mistake. He then said to me “we will never use anyone else but you ever again”. As far as I know, they never did, and when I see this person he still brings it up.
They are contrasting stories and valuable lessons for anyone in sales. Why? Because in sales we need to be the giver and not the taker.
Forget what you have heard about salespeople. The reality is that the rules have changed and the disingenuous salesperson will not be successful in the vast majority of sales roles. In fact, the sincere person who is genuine about supporting others will thrive. Personal brand is everything.
One significant change in the world of sales in the last 15 years is that buyers have most of the purchase information at their fingertips, and salespeople are there to add value to the buying process. Adding value and being the giver – not the taker – is what is required for a salesperson to remain relevant today.
What does this mean for a salesperson? It means that when you’re engaging with a prospect you need to be focused on their issues and challenges and be entirely focused on the correct outcome for them. This comes across in your questions, in the research you do into their company, their industry and the way you deal with them. You need to see yourself as a consultant working for your prospect or client. Your marketing content needs to be focused on adding value, and customer experience is a vital focus for all of us.
I don’t understand why so many people still focus on their product and not the client’s issues. Personally, I get frustrated with people requesting a LinkedIn connection which results in getting an annoying message talking about their product. If you want to start a relationship, then send something of value to your prospect. I was impressed recently when I received a video message by someone that had taken the time to record me a personal message highlighting ways to improve our website. I responded, thanked him and told him unfortunately if he had sent it two weeks ago, before I had engaged another company, then chances are we would have done some business.
People value personal, they value info that is relevant to them and they value salespeople who they believe are adding value to them. They don’t value “this is our product and what we do, blah blah blah.”
If you want to receive more referrals, you need to give more. If you receive them, you need to make the person who referred them to you aware of the outcome. You don’t have to give presents every time, but a simple message to give the outcome of a referral is always appreciated and usually enough to get more. I get a kick out of giving referrals, and of course I love getting them the other way.
It is a simple message but as the world is getting smaller (and noisier), the value of giving in the world of sales is becoming more and more important. If you are not doing this then your clients will soon either not need or want you.