One of the Most Underrated Sales Tactics in Business: Having a Passion for Your Customer’s Business
This is a story about how selling isn’t all about measurable ROI or tried and true closing techniques.
It was a warmer day. Blue skies. I remember feeling cautiously optimistic. This had the potential to be one of, if not the biggest, clients our little startup had brought in to date.
I met my sales consultant in the parking lot of our prospective client. As the Business Development Director, it’s my role to help our sales consultants out whenever possible. This particular guy has been in sales forever and can sell anything. Yet at this point, he was still new to our system and our products. I knew between the two of us we were going to make a difference for this client. Both of us were a little early to the meeting so we took a minute in the parking lot to review our goals for the client. After chatting about our strategy, we agreed that he’d introduce us and cover the salient points and I’d answer questions. We felt confident as we walked into the client’s headquarters.
This is a well known brand. They have 63 locations in 3 states. Their HQ is tidy and classic. This was a typical office environment. We’re greeted by their administrative assistant and asked to take a seat for a couple minutes. Shortly, we’re ushered into a conference room. The table is ample, and the chairs are big and comfortable. It’s a smaller room with conference amenities and big windows are letting in spring sunlight warming the room. We sit down for a minute, but before we get too comfortable, in walk two of the executive team along with one of their managers. This is the first time any of us have met. Our contact with the client is not in the room.
Their leadership is young and energetic and quick to inform us that they have a direction but need some help getting things completed. They begin to layout their needs. They want to refresh their brand and need to update their 20-year-old logo. They might want to update their website and just generally need everything brought current and consistent, including letterhead, business cards, etc. We listen intently and ask a couple of clarifying questions. Things are going smoothly.
Then, the challenge comes. They tell us that we are one of several companies that they are interviewing and that they need a proposal from us within a few days. Competition is the standard on deals like this and it can be a difficult objection to overcome. “Why should we choose you, over company x, y or z?” is the common, and completely justified, question in cases like this.
It shouldn’t be unexpected that we are going to have to compete for the business. It’s rare to have a prospective client hire us on the spot without asking for any additional bids. So this wasn’t a surprise, but it always ups the ante. This is table-stakes for the game of sales.
It’s typical at this point for new salespeople to give up. It’s looks like a no win. Larger companies with more resources have already pitched them. We don’t know for sure who the competition is but we know we are a smaller fish in a big pond. The client knows what they want and they have other vendors who they know can deliver. This is daunting. When I was new in sales, I would get nervous during this type of negotiation and sometimes talk myself out of the sale. As a sales person sitting in a conference room that is now way too hot, headlong into a meeting with C-Level executives and limited resources, it would be understandable if not regrettable, if I stood up, thanked them for their time and headed for the door.
However, today we have a very intentional and very calculated advantage. In business (and in life) it is a little known secret, that if someone outside of our inner circle believes in us or our business or our product we become much more passionate about it. Especially when we are heavily invested in the outcome both emotionally and financially. It doesn’t matter what product or service you are selling. If other people come along and join your shared vision for the future, the power of the idea is amplified and the energy transference is felt not only by the owner(s) and/or leadership, but throughout the entire company. No matter the size.
This happens on it’s own from time to time with an idea whose time has come or based on the dogged optimism or sheer will of the idea’s owner. Sometimes we find that it’s grit and determination and a “too stupid to know when to quit” mentality that helps propel a company forward. Groundswell can happen and often after months or years of struggle a company can hit the tipping point on its own and momentum will shoot them forward like a rocket. That is engineered effort and we applaud that kind of determination.
This is not that.
This is raw energy being dripped into the lifeblood of a project. Renewed passion can be skillfully and artfully created in each new client and vendor relationship. When a salesperson, sales manager, etc. and their company leadership investigate, research, and understand their client’s needs they learn something.
They learn what’s important to their client. They find out their story. Their “why.” What motivates them. Most importantly, they find out what they are trying to create. They find out what their end result is. You may be thinking, “Well, wait. Isn’t what every business wants to sell more of their product? To increase revenue and make more money?”
You would be right for sure. However, to say the answer is always more money would be shortsighted and may cost you the relationship. It’s easy to say more ROI (return on investment), but this is not always the case.
Human nature is much more complex than simply working for financial gain. It would be a gross oversimplification and a serious misstep on our part if we assumed that all any of our clients want is more money. At the end of the day that always helps, but it’s not the only answer and not always the main answer.
Clients want a lot of things for their businesses. They want to educate, they want to create opportunity, they want to give back. They want to make a difference. They want to pay it forward. They often want to remove a pain for others that they experienced. They may want notoriety and they may want to create a certain lifestyle for themselves and their family. At the end of their journey, they may want to build a legacy and leave their mark.
Sometimes clients have lost that passion and have a hard time remembering the why. This can happen two months in for a new startup in just the same way it happens to a twenty year old company who’s trying to jump start growth and stay current in a competitive environment. In almost every case, it’s usually clear that the grind has started to wear on them and they are frustrated, overworked, wearing too many hats and generally feeling overwhelmed.
Often, business owners find themselves working on parts of the business that they have little or no experience with. For example, a dentist might be trying to learn how to manage a CRM, write a newsletter, or run a contest to bring in new patients. While they may be capable of managing these activities, this is not their strength. It’s not uncommon for us to see entrepreneurs acting as President, VP of HR, including payroll manager and accountant, Billing Specialist and Accounts Receivable manager, Director of Customer Service or Customer Experience, Manufacturing or Production, Sales and Project Manager.
This is typical in a new organization, but it also surprisingly exists a lot in 15–20 year old companies as well. This causes burnout and can cause the most seasoned business owner to resent their business and to struggle. You get the idea.
Back to the client and the pitch meeting:
I happen to know a little something about this particular business in our story. However, as a rule I always do a minimum of research about my clients before we meet in person or on a skype call. I would recommend never going in to a pitch meeting cold. It’s always important to do a cursory amount of research on a new client before going in to a face-to-face meeting. Being informed is being polite and being interested is being professional.
Enter the Content Marketing Agency.
It’s at this point in a relationship between client or prospective client and vendor, that if a salesperson and their company can take what they learn and become passionate about their client’s business, they become a tremendous asset to their clients beyond the transference of goods and services. Well beyond what the value of the exchange of money would represent.
Instead of thanking them for their time and bidding them good day, I dug in. I started asking questions about their needs, but more importantly I asked about their end results. What was it that they were trying to create? What did they expect a new logo and refreshed website to accomplish for them? Turns out, the reality is that they needed to update their brand story and refresh not just their website but their whole image and culture. They needed a shot in the arm. They really wanted to jump start their business.
I spent thirty minutes laying out a strategy for them that would reinvigorate their business. It would bring the authority and credibility that they desired but more importantly it would re-energize them and create a rally point for their employees and clients. I explained how important their personal story was and how if they capitalized on that story with beautiful content that their prospective clients would see them in a whole new light. A few days later we brought in our proposal and within a week we had another meeting with our team including our Creative Director and a deal was struck. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our strategy of being passionate about our clients and their business, was the ignition. Our belief in our strategy and willingness to stick to our guns, became the fuel for their collective fire.
Within a few weeks they were starting to see results from our work. This evoked an emotional response and caused them to get excited about the possibilities again. They shifted their thinking from what wasn’t working to what might work to how they could make changes across the board that would have a ripple effect. They began tracking their efforts and examining the results they were getting. They started noticing changes in their employees as they bought in to the new energy and plan. Their business was thriving.
The most important action this client took (after hiring us, of course) was that they set proper expectations and they didn’t give up. Content Marketing is not a strategy for the impatient. It takes time to create great content that gets results.
It takes time to artfully craft a story and to tell the story with consistency across numerous platforms including social channels, newsletters, blogs, etc.
They had faith in their company. Their methods and efforts over the last 20 years had built a terrific company with a proud legacy and heritage. It was their desire to modernize their aesthetic and message.
They absolutely had to maintain consistency.
What we brought to the table was the energy of their end result. We had a shared vision with them for the future of their business and the power of that execution as a team, our team working together with their team, has been nothing short of miraculous.
It is our belief from seeing these miracles with out own eyes that a small agency like ours can be a powerful difference maker for our clients. It’s not just that we are good at what we do. It’s not simply because we have tremendous talent on our team. (We do.) But it is also because we look at the client’s business as if it were our own. We treat the work we do as if we were trying to help our best friends grow their business.
Bringing our passion and energy to our client’s projects is the secret to creating amazing content and to building lasting relationships with our clients. It truly is one of the most underrated sales tools in your toolkit.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s driving the bottom line with incredible results.