I have a very good friend whom I had approached years ago about becoming a part of my sales team. She was professional, intelligent and had a very strong work ethic. I have no doubt that she could have very well been one of the best in the business. Our friendship began because she was one of my clients.
When I approached her about the idea, she said, “Jeff, I just don’t think I would like being in sales.” I asked her, “Why do you think that?” She replied, “It has always seemed to me that sales people are out to get people to buy things – often times things that they don’t even need.”
I was a little bit surprised by her answer. I asked, “You don’t think of me like that, do you?” She replied, “No. You are actually the exception to the rule as far as sales people go. As a matter of fact, you are just about the only sales person that I have met that I actually like. Even though I know I would behave more like you do – I just don’t want other people to think of me as a sales person.”
We were close enough that I knew she was being completely honest with me; and her answer made me pretty sad about the way some sales people conduct their business. It also made me think about why she and most others have always perceived me differently than most of the sales people they know. After all, I apply solid sales principles in how I do my business. I have always gone for the close. I have always used great rebuttal techniques when handling objections. I have used a structured – but conversational style of consultative sales presentations.
As we talked further, she told me that the reason was that I was always looking out for the interest of my client – even if it was not going to generate a sale for me. For example, in 21 years in the voluntary employee benefit arena, I always told potential clients to be careful about their budget and I cautioned them about over-spending with me. I wanted them to be conservative in their selection. I would rather have them pick a modest amount of coverage and be happy, than pick too much and become unhappy with their choice later. I taught my sales team the same principle.
I also learned a great technique from bestselling author, Bob Burg, in his book Endless Referrals. In his book, Bob describes how you can develop a network of people who will regularly refer business to you. I adapted his process slightly and applied it in my business. I began to do what I called “Give and Gain Meetings.” These meetings did great things for helping me gain introductions to new accounts in my B2B environment. But it also helped me build wonderful relationships with the owners of my accounts. The process I used was simple. Call your client and ask for a twenty minute appointment to run an idea by them. At your meeting, cover the following points:
- Since they are your client now, you have a financial interest in them and want to help them in their business as much as possible.
- You have a network of people that you do business with currently, that already know you, like you and trust you. You are also growing that network on a daily basis.
- Ask them to educate you and specifically teach you what questions you should be asking those people in your network to find out if they would be a good potential customer for them – so you can introduce the two of them.
- Take notes. Then refer business to them as quickly and as often as possible.
It is that simple. If you do it correctly and with the proper motives, you will find that they may be very surprised. I even had a business owner once tell me that many sales people asked him for referrals, but I was the very first to ask how I could refer business to him. You will usually find that they automatically want to do the same for you – so everybody wins.
I challenge you today – make a list of five of your very best existing clients. Call them and set up a time to have a “Give and Gain Meeting” with them. Then set up a referral network among your clients. Make that a top priority in 2014.
If it is good for your clients, it is also good for you.
How can you apply the “Give and Gain Meeting” concept in your current clients in cases where they are not people who have careers in which they need to attract new clients of their own?
Have you read Bob Burg’s book, Endless Referrals?