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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA

Have you ever reached the end of the line with a prospect—and had no idea what to do to move forward? Your strategy was sound. Your techniques were flawless. But your prospect still continually stalled the process. In those situations, when you know that you have something of value to offer based on the information you’ve gleaned from your prospect, stop being a salesperson and become a consultant.

What is a consultant?

A consultant has been defined as someone who gets paid a lot of money to tell the client something he either already knows...or he doesn’t want to hear. In other words, the objective, hard hitting advice a consultant is hired to give will sometimes validate the client’s suspicions or existing perceptions. And, at other times, it will root out and bring to the fore issues or problems of which the client wasn’t fully aware or, perhaps, unwilling to face.

Change Hats

What would it sound like to take off your salesperson hat and put on your consultant hat? First, you must ask for permission. Then, hit the prospect as hard as you can with a picture of what will happen if he doesn’t buy your product or service.

You: Tim, can I stop being a salesperson for just a moment and become a consultant?

Prospect: I suppose.

You: Tim, by not moving forward with this project right now, you’re not only hurting your production numbers—which you admit are not where they need to be—but also hurting your bottom line numbers that, I’m sure, shareholders will be scrutinizing with a magnifying glass. Continuing to drag your feet on this project could be the single biggest mistake you make this year.

Delivering your consultant’s “advice” won’t guarantee that the prospect will grant you the sale, but it will get the real issue—the consequences of his inaction—on the table and highlight the need to take action...now. If the prospect heeds your advice, you can get on with the sale. If he rejects it, you can close the file and not waste any more of your time.

Relating the Unrelated

David Sandler once said that the real challenge of selling was the ability to relate the unrelated. By that, he meant being able to relate the appropriate aspects of your product or service to your prospect’s situation when the connection is not obvious based on the prospect’s perception of the situation.

It’s a matter of awareness.

Why wouldn’t the connection be obvious? In some cases, the prospect just isn’t aware that your product or service, or some aspect of it, is relevant to his situation. In other cases, the prospect isn’t aware of the true nature of his situation. He sees what unfolds in front of him; he views his situation, problem, or challenge as it presents itself today. He doesn’t see the underlying conditions that create or contribute to the problem—the elements that your product or service address. Without the awareness, the connection is not immediately made.

Need an example?

You are a sales rep for a paint manufacturer. You’ve been contacted by a contractor for a quote on a significant quantity of a particular type of paint for a large project. He made it clear that he was under pressure to keep the costs down and he needs you to sharpen your pencil to reduce prices as much as possible.

By relating materials costs to overall project costs, the contractor’s apparent solution for keeping the project costs in line is to obtain rock-bottom pricing on materials. No one can argue with that logic. However, using your product and industry knowledge and “relating the unrelated,” you propose a more expensive paint.

How can that be?

Your company manufactures a specialty paint that in addition to meeting the contractor’s quote request requirements, dries in less than one-half the time of the paint specified, thereby allowing subsequent coats to be applied sooner. Even though the paint you suggest costs a bit more than other paint you could quote, the savings to the contractor of not having to pay painters to stand around and literally watch paint dry would more than offset the added purchase cost and help the contractor meet his job cost objectives. Helping the contractor make that connection between the cost of paint and the “unrelated” cost of labor for applying the paint is what will win the sale.

The more you know about your products and services and the industry in which you sell, the easier it will be to close more sales—especially if you relate to the unrelated.

Customer Retention – Magic or Method?

A sales guru once described a five-step “magical” process for customer retention. The five steps were: 1) Follow Up, 2) Follow Up, 3) Follow Up, 4) Follow Up, and—you guessed it—5) Follow Up.

OK, there’s nothing magical, or even remarkable, about the process. I suppose the guru was trying to drive home the point that if you don’t want your customers to drift away, then, in addition to normal buyer-seller interactions, you should maintain regular contact with them throughout the year.

Makes good sense.

The real “magic,” if there is any, is how, when, and in what manner you maintain contact. So, let’s look at five follow up activities you can perform to cultivate a closer relationship with your customers.

1) Send a “Thank You” card to new clients. An elaborate pre-printed card with a foil-stamped company logo isn’t necessary...or desired. A simple card with a hand written message such as, “I look forward to working with you,” which also includes your cell phone number and e-mail address, is all that’s needed.

2) At regular intervals, send to your customers a printed copy of your company’s newsletter, or an article or white paper that is relevant to their businesses or industries. Add a hand-written note—Thought you’d find this interesting.

3) Send birthday cards to your customers. (You do know their birthdays, don’t you?) Again, no elaborate card with a company logo or imprint. A plain birthday card with your hand written note, “Enjoy your day,” is sufficient.

4) Send information about new products or services to your customers. Add a call-to-action note such as, “Let’s discuss. I’ll call on Tuesday at 10am.”

5) Send customers printed copies of articles relevant to their personal interests. (Yes, you should know something about your clients’ personal interests.) And, as you’ve already guessed, add a personal note like “Saw this in the Business Journal…thought you’d like to have it.”

Little things that you do throughout the year remind your customers that you are thinking about them and you care about and appreciate their business. Customers who feel appreciated are much less likely to jump ship when your competitors come knocking at their doors.

 

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