Building a profitable business is a serious game of connections.
Every successful sales person knows that, in order to get clients, you must have prospects.
Prospects come from essentially three pools of people.
- People you know.
- People they know.
- People you have not yet met.
We refer to these, in order, as warm to cold prospects. It is easy to sell to someone who knows you, relatively easy to sell to someone who knows someone you know, and challenging to sell to “cold” prospects.
Companies can spend enormous amounts of ad revenue to establish a long prospect list, but that doesn’t guarantee sales, especially in today’s business world. Increasingly, companies must work to first establish trust – in their brand, their product, and their people.
It is a matter of realizing that the successful bottom line of business comes down to a very simple formula: PEOPLE.
It is all about connecting with people and serving people. Whether you are an entrepreneur or the CEO of a major corporation, you are in the PEOPLE business. You may sell services or products – either way, you are in the people business.
The PEOPLE Formula
Prospects are People
Leaders and sales teams can get wrapped up in numbers, which in reality are quite important to business. But behind every number is a person. How much more effective could your sales team be if they were permitted to focus on serving the person more than making their quota?
“That won’t work,” you may be thinking. “We must stay focused on the goals!”
While goals are very important, the people you serve are even more so.
Are you thinking it won’t work as a business model? Think again.
Consider the model of Zappos, the founder of which started out solving a “shoe” problem and quite quickly realized it was more about “Creating memorable experiences for the greater good.”
As they have adopted that culture, the sales have happened as a side effect. They realized they were solving a “shoe” problem for PEOPLE, not just selling shoes.
Engage with People
Engagement is an interesting word as it pertains to business. We use it with regard to employees: “Are they engaged in their work?”
We also use it in terms of time: “I have an engagement.”
Essentially, it is a term that implies commitment and promise. What we’re saying is that an employee is committed to their work, and that we are committed to showing up somewhere at a certain time.
But how engaged are you and your team with the people you serve? Are you committed to them? Do you make it your mission to not only make promises but also keep them? When they have an issue, do you follow up to conclusion and communicate frequently with them as you do? Your best prospects are returning customers. It is a point many miss – the sale after the sale. Never underestimate the value of great customer service.
“Sales are down.”
“It’s the economy.”
“The competition is tough.”
Several years ago, the leader of a major corporation made these same statements. When asked what he planned to do about the company’s downturn, he said, “What am I supposed to do?”
Needless to say, that was the end of the company. And the end of work for thousands of employees.
This came about because the leader would not take responsibility for the welfare of his employees and made decisions that were not in the best interest of his customers.
This was not an economy issue, or a competition issue. It was a people issue – a leader who did not choose to own the responsibility for his people.
Provide a Great Experience
Someone once said to someone with a handicap: “What makes you different makes you memorable.”
It was a turning point in that person’s life.
This is true in business as well…”What makes you different makes you memorable.”
With a worldwide market, it is nearly impossible to compete on price, unless you are a major corporation with economies of scale.
But a small to mid-size company can do something larger companies may not be able to do, and that is provide an unforgettable customer experience.
Listen to their needs.
Scott Gerber says it well in an Inc.com article: “Don’t make turning a prospect into a buyer your first priority.”
There is the aggressive, active tense of sales – where you make your points and close the sale. You make the sale because the prospect feels pressured or obligated to purchase.
But there is also a more subtle and quite effective methodology, where you first listen for their needs, and then you simply offer a solution to their problem. This type of sale is a very natural approach. The client feels respected and served, and in reality, the sales person feels great because they have helped fill a human need in a very genuine exchange.
Enlarge your friends list
Not every conversation is a sales conversation. But every conversation should be with the goal of genuinely “making a friend.”
Why is this important?
Because when you do need to make a sale, friends are your hottest prospects. Gerber suggests, “…meet, connect, and repeat.”
As a leader, make it your mission to connect daily. Look for new people to meet, listen to their needs, and help them find solutions to their problems. It may be that you create a solution; or it may be that your company cannot help them with a particular need. You may even need to refer them to a competitor. If you find a way to help them, you have made an effective connection that will in some form or fashion come back to your business as well.
The fact is, business is all about PEOPLE – the people you serve and the people who serve with you. Technology is great. Automation is essential. But never forget…it’s the PEOPLE at the end of the line who determine the success of your business.
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