One of the interesting side effects of relying exclusively on this E-Newsletter to market my business, is that 100% of my prospective clients reach out to me, rather than vice versa.
In other words, instead of identifying industries or companies or individuals who seem to be the likely buyers of my services and trying to get in touch with them (the way most experts would advise), I simply publish this newsletter every other week, sit in my office drinking coffee, and wait for the phone to ring (what can I tell you, it seems to work).
As a result of this approach, and again, unlike the experience of most service professionals, in that first conversation with a prospective client, I usually know absolutely nothing about who they are or what they do.
I know, I know, that’s a cardinal sin in the world of sales. You’re supposed to do all kinds of research regarding a prospective client and the industry it lives in before getting on the phone with them. How else can you impress them with your intimate knowledge of what they do and the problems they face, and avoid looking foolish and ill-informed during that first, all important, discussion?
Good question. You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve developed and fine-tuned a proprietary interrogation methodology (PIM), which allows me to learn all about a prospect, without compromising my position as all-knowing consultant in the process.
And, you’ll be even more pleased to know that I’m going to share this entire blueprint with you, today, at no cost (you can thank me later).
It’s tricky though, so watch carefully. Here goes…
When I’m on the phone with a prospect, and after exchanging the usual pleasantries and chit chat, I pause and take a deep breath. Then, I look straight at the phone, and with a confident, yet inquisitive voice, I say: “So, what do you guys do anyway?”
Bam! That’s it. They start talking and we’re off and running.
All kidding aside, I have noticed one interesting thing in these situations (and this is the point of today’s newsletter, so try to stay with me).
If the person on the other end of the telephone works as a “typical” professional service provider (accountant, recruiter, financial planner, marketer, etc.) they answer my question by explaining their business model. For example, “We help mid-size technology companies market their products, using our five point system for blah, blah. We zipidy-zip their blah, blahs, and charge a licensing fee and hourly rate.” You get the picture.
If, on the other hand, I ask this very same question to someone in a nonprofit organization, they invariably answer by explaining their vision. For example, “We help adults improve their economic situation by teaching literacy.”
The nonprofit people never begin by talking about how they generate revenue. And, unlike their for-profit counterparts – who go as silent as if I had just asked them to explain how the Hubble Telescope works – they have no trouble talking coherently and at length about the “cause.” Why should they? The cause is what they do; it’s why they come to work every day.
How about you? If thinking about the cause or vision or philosophy for your business makes you uneasy, you’re in luck. Because if you’ve managed to sell what you do so far without even knowing what it is, you’re going to love how much easier things get when you talk to people from a higher perspective.
What I’ve realized (and only recently), is that vision – not features, not benefits, not process, not capabilities, not credentials – is the fastest and easiest path to closing a sale. It is so much (sooooooo much) simpler to bring a new client on board when they understand and buy into your “stuff.” If your view of the world resonates with them and some problem they have or opportunity they see, they don’t care (much) about how you get them there.
That last point is so important that I’m going to say it again, in case you missed it. If they buy your vision, they don’t care about your process. They just want you to take them to that place you just described.
In my case, during that critical, first impression conversation with prospective clients, I hardly talk at all about what I do (E-Newsletter creation). Instead, the vast majority of the discussion is about my vision: why relationships matter; how efficient it is to market to the people you already know; how difficult it is to chase strangers and position yourself as expert at the same time; why penguins are so cuddly, etc. Vision, vision, vision.
A couple of more things on this:
- You don’t need a “save the world” vision. It’s fine if you have one, but when I talk about vision, I’m simply talking about something bigger than just putting cash in your pocket. There’s nothing wrong with cash, but if you want more of it with less effort, see if you can stand back and figure out what point of view your company has that transcends the bottom line.
- If you can talk about the vision independent of your particular service solution, you’re on the right track. Being able to clearly and concisely describe what you do and how you do it is certainly important. But that’s not vision; that’s just basic marketing.
I’m talking about your view of the way things ought to be:
Vision: “Small businesses deserve a way to inexpensively generate targeted leads”
Service: Pay Per Click marketing from Take Aim Search
Vision: “Having a chronic illness doesn’t mean you can’t continue to thrive in the workplace.”
Service: Coaching from CICoach.com
Service: “Web demos and presentations that connect instantly,” from Glance.net
You get the idea. These visions exist above and beyond the services attached (and in fact, you could apply the same vision to other services).
- Take a lesson from the nonprofits. In a nonprofit, the vision is always visible and right there out on the table. Nobody’s there for the money, and everyone talks (constantly) about the cause.
Now, imagine for a moment that your business were set up as a nonprofit. If money were not the objective, what would be the purpose of your organization? Chew on that one for a while and you may see things in an entirely different way.
Bottom Line: Money’s great (I like it a lot), but if that’s the only reason your company exists, you’re going to have to work for every sale. Talk less about what you do, and more about what you believe on the other hand, and you’ll make it easier for prospects to hear you, understand you, remember you, and (ta da!) hire you.
I’ll be drinking coffee in my office if you need me.