I joked this week that if my current gig doesn't work out, I may go into the home-repair sales business. Of course, my sales leads have come about while we were personally spending lots of money on our home.
So my business model might have a few holes in it.
The handymen I hired a couple of years ago to rebuild a bay window ended up with two other jobs from my neighbors that same week. A few months later, a different crew that remodeled our bathroom got another bathroom remodel job from one neighbor and a kitchen remodel job from a different neighbor.
This week, I found myself standing in my front yard, watching roofers replace our roof. These guys work 25 feet up in the air, on inclines that would make a mountain goat think twice. As I stood there, feeling glad that we had verified that these dudes were insured, my neighbor Steve walked up.
He asked me if I was happy with their work. I joked that he should get back with me after the next thunderstorm if he wanted my final answer. But from what I had seen over the first two days, these guys were pretty competent and conscientious.
By the end of the day, Steve had lined the crew up for repairs at his home, and by the following afternoon, my neighbor Michael came over asking if I would "endorse" that crew. They'll likely be working on his roof next week.
All of this reminded me of a couple of things that folks in the "sales" business (i.e. all of us) need to remember. One, there is usually more "pent up" demand and/or interest in our products and services than is openly obvious. In this particular case, several folks had been contemplating but putting off having work done. They needed a visual nudge.
Second, word-of-mouth and personal references trump any form of advertising we have. That doesn't mean that all of our other marketing isn't important. Business shrivels on the vine without it.
But in the end, one person "endorsing" a business or product to a friend or acquaintance has far more impact on that person's decision-making process than any other form of marketing we have.
Would you be comfortable with your last 10 customers telling others about their latest service interaction with you? Let's hope so.
As important, what kind of experiences will the next 10 customers you see have to tell friends about later?
In "sales" speeches over the years, I've often kidded with folks that there is a tendency among many of us to forget some basic facts about customers. And the most basic of these facts is that they are human. I then remind them that, luckily for us, we're human, too!
Conveniently, that gives us a very good window into the psyches of that elusive species known as "potential customers."
In a nutshell, I suggest that there is a 99% chance that something that would bother them would also bother a customer. Yet, many folks boldly (and blindly) get out there every day and do things that aggravate and alienate customers.
I'm reminded of one of the best pieces of managerial advice that I've ever read. A former banker named Dee Hock came up with a very simple "PhD in Leadership: Short Course." He advises: Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don't do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.
His reasoning is simple. Managers tend to forget that people are people and your employees want the same things that you want. Yes, we humans can be pretty complicated things. But some things about us aren't so complicated.
Borrowing that logic, I often recommend to folks to pull back a bit from the robotic, "Can I interest you in…?" sales pitches that people hate. I suggest to managers that when we constantly make existing (or potential) customers tell us, "No," they become very comfortable, and highly efficient, at doing it.
(Go observe a cell-phone kiosk at your local mall to see this phenomenon in action.)
That said, I ask them to think of the last time they made a moderately large purchase or made a decision to switch a service provider. Did they think about it for weeks or months? They probably did not.
People (like you) live their lives without constantly reevaluating where or why they buy things or use certain service providers. And then…they do.
The same person who gave no thought to her banking choices 2 weeks ago may have that on her radar this week. When that time comes, will she know who you are, where you are, and that you'd love to talk to her?
The key is consistently (and politely) staying "on her radar" as well. Are potential customers more likely to "know" you, or "no" you?