Recently a friend’s son and I were elbow-rubbing with the Hipsters at Roberta’s – one of Brooklyn’s busiest and most delectable pizza restaurants. I was encouraging him to break down the barriers and pursue his passion. In this case, lutherie – the building of acoustic guitars. His resistance was one I’ve heard people lament before – “I’m not good at sales.”
Without skipping the proverbial beat I shot back “Do you love building guitars?”
“Do you love talking about building guitars?”
“Talk about what you love and the money will follow”
All too often I hear people imply that a prerequisite of being a good salesperson that they need to convince people to give them money for their product – whether it be guitars or custom software. Bah! Convincing is not part of being a salesperson. Instead, focus on why you are talking about what you do or offer. The important part isn’t the transaction – it is the love of what you do. Tell people what you do, why you do it, and the rest of the pieces (including the money) will follow.
“Two Ears, One Mouth”
Maybe it’s my Eastern European heritage but I think of myself as a matchmaker. My potential clients are suitors looking for the technology platform to partner with and take their business life to the next level. I don’t think a matchmaker would ”sell” one partner to another. I think a true matchmaker would get to know one partner before recommending another. I admit it: my favorite part of my job is not closing the sale it is getting to know the “partner.”
Listening is a skill I didn’t develop naturally. Growing up in my family of four there was usually at least two people talking at once – usually about three different things. Over time I learned that the only way to really learn something is to gain enough knowledge to provide informed feedback. When musicians jam together they don’t listen for just one note or chord their band mates are playing before they riff and expand. They look for a pattern, a theme. To do so with your clients is to listen enough for something to “click”. And then, when the click happens, give something back verbally to validate that (as a colleague of mine is fond of saying) “what they thought you heard is what you thought they said”. Only then will you be in a position to make a match.
“ABC: Always Be
Even when I walk away from a potential opportunity I try and do right or leave something behind. This can come in many forms.
As an example, occasionally our company or the services we offer are not the right fit for a particular organization, person or scenario. Recently I met with an organization that needed and wanted to work with FileMaker but had an overly ambitious timeline and expectations for developing something with custom software. Seeing that they had the need to jumpstart their development, I referred them to a vertical solutions developer who works with FileMaker. It stunned everyone at the conference table that I would see beyond my organization’s own personal goals and seek to provide this customer with an alternative.
A month after I had last spoken to this customer they sent me a card (yes, in the mail) thanking me for introducing them to the other consultant whom they were moving forward with. Included in the card was a business card of one of their peers with a recommendation that I speak to them about their potential need for our FileMaker consulting services. And, a $500 Amazon gift card.
Our potential and existing clients expect that we’re there for them – in whatever form that takes. If the client isn’t a good fit for you, refer them to a trusted colleague. Would that customer be better served by another approach? Perhaps one that is smaller or less appealing to your QuickBooks file? I’d argue that not being overzealous and taking a more piecemeal approach will yield greater success down the roadmap. More about that in my second post.
Doing the right thing will connect you with the people you do business with and potentially reap more fulfilling (and profitable) rewards over time. I have a handful of stories like the one I mentioned above that illustrate and reinforce why over time I have continued to take this approach – to look to provide potential opportunities with what they really need.
What I’ve come to realize is that being a salesperson is more about connecting with people than it is about the end game. The connection we make with others through aligning our individual purposes into a collective result is for me what sales is all about.