Personal Sales Techniques and Tips
This post has been sitting in draft since April. It was initially inspired by a fellow inbound marketer who asked me to help them with a start-up company prospect who they thought needed buyer persona profiles and a sales and marketing strategy. There were a number of other agencies on the call as a collaborative effort and was spearheaded by someone other than my referring colleague.
While on the call with the two founders of the start-up, after the agency had gone through their pitch, 30-40 minutes later the meeting leader asked the two founders if they had any questions. Maybe it was me, but the pause and silence from them was deafening. Having been involved in a lot of 'agency pitches' to CEOs and start-up founders, I think that outside perspective has allowed me to observe and spot those points of silence where the pitch is becoming overwhelming and not really answering the question in the mind of the founder or executive. So when it came time for questions, and no one had any- I felt I had sat on my hands long enough.
Being new to the prospect, I asked if it was ok if I asked (a lot of) questions. And while I gently poked and prodded, had fun with and learned about why the founders were investing so much in their business idea and what they thought the opportunity was that they were chasing, the question started to form in my head- what was holding them back? Why are they hesitating? What is the roadblock, challenge, or thing that they are concerned about?
Finally his objection surfaced when I asked that (I almost heard a gasp and an intake of air from somewhere on the line) and he answered with, "Can this work? Is everything that you are telling me I need to do to make this successful even have a real market and a viable chance?"
It took 5 minutes for me to search Facebook for data to determine his current local market size that were interested and talking about a few things related to his service. His tone changed and his partner became excited and engaged.
Since then, the other marketing and technical professionals on the call have reached out to me to say, "How did you add that kind of value?"
The Entreprenuer's Challenge
I don't see myself as having done anything more than put myself in the shoes of the person making the buying decision and then asking; what would I be thinking if I were them in this situation? What make me feel confident that I have what I need to make the best decision? What would I be most concerned about?
So why this post now? Yesterday a current client said to me, "I am not sure I can do that, I'm not as cunning as you are." It reminded me of a comment someone said to me at a Maine entreprenuer meetup when I commented that I alter my approach and style to match or compliment the person I am interacting with. I don't just make stuff up, but I do look for commonalities and interests that help us to relate to each other. "Well that is just lying about who you are. Your message should never change!" was the comment. Like the comment from my client, this reaction surprised me as well. But it's important to understand that this is a very real perception that some sales and marketing professionals (and their prospects) struggle with.
Is this cunning a bad thing, or is it just the magic of empathy at work in the real 21st century sales and marketing world? Furthermore, can it be learned and taught? I have my thoughts, but what does the voice in your head tell you?
The sales lesson? Never assume that someone feels a certain way about you. Always ask, confirm, bring a nugget of value to every conversation. Something that helps them. Is it free advice? Sure. But even free advice needs to bring value, and value is determined by the receiver, not the giver.