I like the Buffer blog a lot. It’s consistently pretty well-researched and well-intentioned (hence actionable), and this goes for Kevan Lee’s posts (one of the main authors) as well as a lot of their guest posts. (If you have no idea what Buffer is, read this.)
Here’s a good guest post from Sam Parr (and here’s his Twitter if you don’t know who he is) and while I’d read the entire thing — it’s long, but relevant and interesting — there are two really small, really simple, almost-buried aspects of advice in there about sales.
Before I ever talk to a potential customer I read/watch everything about them so I know their wants and personality. If you’re trying to make a sale, make sure to comment about something very specific and meaningful to that person so they know you’re sincere.
This research isn’t hard to do, it just takes time. Google the person you’re contacting and read everything from pages 1 to 5 on Google. Yes, some may think it’s strange to tell Rick how much I know about him, but in doing so I’m showing that I genuinely like him and his story, and how much I want him to speak at my event. Basically, I want him to know that this isn’t a cut-and-pasted email but something meaningful.
90% of cold emails, calls, or gifts are completely thoughtless and bland. You’ll really stand out from the crowd if you just take 10 or 20 minutes and stalk your recipient. Find out what they like, want, and how they think.
You’ll see a lot of posts on LinkedIn about how “… the most dangerous words in business are we’ve always done it that way.” That’s true. The same goes for sales, selling, up-selling, whatever you want to call it. Everything is ultimately a sale. Everything. And everyone is super busy, or believes themselves to be super busy. Everyone. And everyone gets a ton of e-mail. No one is exempt from that. So you need to stand out.
And how do you cut through clutter? You form a relationship.
And how do you form a relationship from a cold start? You show interest.
People will respond to interest and shared connection about 1,000x faster than they’ll respond to anything else.
Brief story: this spring I was working for Teach for America on conference planning. I was down in Memphis for a conference. I saw a three year old child run into the hotel bar squealing with delight, then I saw a down-trodden man chase after him, scoop him up, and exit the bar. 15 minutes later, said man came to the bar, sat next to me, and ordered a double Scotch. Four of those later, he was quite talkative. He did sales for a Minnesota company but lived in Mississippi, so he explained to me the difference between “the Midwest/North” and “the South.” According to him, the South invests in relationships — he won’t even mention the sale until the fifth meeting, by which point he’s had dinner, drinks, played golf, etc, etc. In the North, he explained to me, “it’s all about the fucking sale from the jump. I hate that.”
This dude was drunk and I’m not entirely sure about the welfare of his small child, but he had one kernel of a point therein: everything is all about the relationship. Why would someone who’s busy want to stop down on the other things they’re doing and make time for you?
It has to come back to establishing a connection.
That’s all — fairly simple but wanted to share.