It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – sales that is!
July 12, 2014
I got an invitation in the mail the other week from a group of suppliers who wanted me to come along to their mid-year Christmas celebration. At first I thought great free snacks and drinks! I mean for me it is the end of the financial year so what could be better than a little bit of a party on someone else right? I get there and far from being a party it was a sales pitch – and boy was it a great sales pitch.
In fact the mid-year Christmas concept was a kin to fishing – cast your rod out there in rough weather and see what you might be able to wind in. In other words, you might not reel in anything or you could catch yourself a pretty big fish!
The truth is for a lot companies around the world the last five years haven’t been overly wonderful and if you read the data out of the United States the vast majority of small businesses fail in the first five years. If you take a look at the same sort of data out of Europe and Australia the same is true. But something else really remarkable is happening – small business owners are becoming not only more resilient in terms of economic conditions they are becoming more creative.
Now, as a former small business owner I can tell you that being entrepreneurial is one thing – but managing everything from cash flow to employees can be even bigger challenges. The example of the mid-year Christmas was actually a really good way of bringing together your key customers in a much more focussed and family friendly way – in actual fact, this particular business has done a lot to create brand and product loyalty not by selling to me – but making me part of the family – right down to the fact that every year for the last four years I have been buying from them they send me a birthday card and a Christmas card.
So, reflecting on our own business and the creativity I see all around me I wanted to share with you – basic concepts that can often be lost in today’s translation with so much focus on the online and non-personal sell as opposed to the face to face. In fact, it’s also the type of advice I am forever giving people when they put their resumes together and send them out to 100 different organisations all with the same message – then they complain that they had 100 rejection letters. The need to focus your sales effort is no different to how you would pitch yourself in your resume:
Tip #1: Trying using the phone and ditch email for a week: I get hundreds of emails a day yet I probably only get a two or three phone calls – I wish people would call me to sell me something or make an appointment to go and have a cup of coffee – I can’t build a connection with you over email!
Tip #2: Build relationships not just databases: The best connection you can make is when you a build a relationship with a customer. In fact, the best sales technique I know is the one where they know something about you and you know something about them – in that sort of client relationship it becomes harder for them to say no to you when you want to sell something – just scrolling through the database holds no real personal meaning because at the end of the day data is just data but people are people (even though I freely admit data is very important!
Tip #3: Create networking opportunities: It is easy and cost effective to create your own networking opportunities such as putting a working lunch on and inviting clients and prospects. To be more effective use it as an opportunity to provide them with new learnings or insights so they leave feeling as they have learnt something and not just been sold to.
Tip #4: Do something other than just sell: Often I will call my own customers out of the blue and just check in with them as opposed to sell to them. To do this I have conversation pieces because I know what they are interested in. With some of my clients we talk sport and with others we shoot the breeze when it comes to politics. It is just another way of forming a connection.
So what are these techniques? Honestly nothing more than relationship selling. There is no reason why we can’t mix the new way of selling through social media and the use of analytics from databases with the more traditional style that I know a lot of people yearn for.
So, think about your mid-year Christmas party idea and ask yourself is the way I am currently engaging with my customers giving me the maximum return possible? If not – try something new but old – you know what I mean?
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