"Hi, Mary. Just checking in to see how things are going.
Is there anything I can help you with?"
"Hi, Steve. Thanks for calling. Everything's OK."
"OK. Well, I was just thinking of you. I'm only a call away if you need anything."
Was this salesperson well-intentioned?
Was this call productive?
First, people are very busy.
Often too busy for pointless, objective-free small talk.
Second, people naturally ask, "What will it do for me?"
The "it" can be a product, service, piece of information, or even the call made in the above scenario. They always have time for business-important advice and information. But if it's just a check-in, while polite, it's usually a distraction; and sometimes an annoyance.
In this do-more-with-less-resources economy, people are strapped. Their resources are purged and their time's at a premium. They've likely taken on more responsibilities and have to be highly efficient to stay even.
So while they may really have a need or could use help, oftentimes their automatic reply will simply be "everything's fine." They're so busy they don't even have time to stop and actually consider the offer. It's more personal and respectful to send a quick card.
Considering this environment, there's an easy and effective way to separate yourself from most of the self-interested-only, talk-too-much, listen-too-little salespeople.
Begin -- today -- thinking of what you can be to your prospects and customers, not what they expect you to be from their vast experience with other salespeople.
Written simply, begin viewing yourself as a valued business consultant instead of just a salesperson.
Salespeople fill needs and solve problems.
Sales consultants, however, take selling several steps further.
They anticipate, scout for, and provide relevant, timely, and often business-critical information.
Salespeople who view themselves as a trusted business sales consultants -- as true counselors -- consider how they can truly help their prospects and customers far beyond just the product or service they provide. They're genuinely interested in, and care about, their prospects' and customers' businesses.
In the short term, this takes more effort and forward thinking.
Because they're truly trying to build a relationship.
This means every action doesn't necessarily -- in fact, probably won't -- show up on the bottom line. It won't translate into more business immediately.
This is exactly why most salespeople don't -- and won't -- do this. Therein lies the opportunity ... for the salesperson with foresight and relationship-focused service.
Therein lies the true opportunity: selfless service with no guarantee of a return.
What does this sales consulting look like on a regular basis?
Surprisingly, it's not difficult. And with a little effort, you'll find it doesn't take much more time than trying to sell every prospect.
In short, it means beginning to think like a business consultant.
It means thinking of your prospects' and customers' businesses as if they're your own. You become a student of their industries, not just your own. And you stay on top of their industry.
Here are just few of the tactics you can use to execute your strategic consulting mindset:
- Industry news.
Competitor successes or failures, upcoming events, etc. Forward any article you come across regarding competitors, events, industry trade shows, etc. Your prospects and customers may be too busy to look on their own.
Hot prospect occupying a nearby facility? New office park opening? While making your calls, look for potential customers for your prospects and customers. Then forward this information in a quick summary a few times monthly. If you begin prospecting for your prospects and customers, you'll become very valuable, very quickly.
- New customers.
Refer your customers to your other customers and prospects. This is obvious. The fastest way to create good will and become valued is by putting money in your prospects' and customers' pocket.
Read a good book or article on sales, customer service, positioning, etc.? Forward it to your contacts with a quick note suggesting how they might use the information in their business. This, incidentally, is much stronger -- and more personal -- than the typical "check-in" call.
While moving from a salesperson to a true business sales consultant requires more time, effort and discipline than selling alone, the potential rewards are a tremendous.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.