I’ve recently been swimming in seminars and webinars on sales. Thank goodness! After drinking from the fountain of servant and transformational leadership for the last few years, it’s good to get back into a tactical state. I recently read a book called Ask Without Fear
, by Marc Pitman. It is a bestselling book on fundraising but each of the principles in it transfers so effectively into sales, I would recommend it to every sales person in the world. After all, isn’t the biggest sell of all asking folks to part with their money? Whether it’s a donation for a greater good, or an exchange of currency to acquire a tangible product or service, the key steps are all the same.
All potential buyers, or donors for that matter, are not equal. Just because you have 2 million names in your database or 5,000 fans on Facebook, does not mean that any of these will translate into actual purchasers. There is so much research that has to go into the proverbial “qualifying your leads”. I’d rather have an email list of 1,000 names that routinely bought from me than a list of 100,000 names where I’d be lucky if 1,000 even opened the email before deleting.
Just because I push out the greatest eBlast with the most amazing links to videos or send out the most gorgeous lumpy mailer showcasing some of my products does not mean that anyone will turn into a purchaser either. My favorite line from Ask Without Fear
is “You can’t milk a cow with a letter.” In other words, bulk correspondence of any kind will fall flat without the follow up of personal engagement. So spend your advertising and marketing dollars carefully. And always remember, no one sells it like you, and there’s no short cut for that.
All of this made me think fondly to my days of selling books door to door. In the beginning, I would focus my attention on the biggest houses because I figured they had the most money to buy my two-volume encyclopedia set for $60. Unfortunately, my young sales instincts were dead wrong! When I wised up, I decided to focus on families that saw the value in education but couldn’t afford an expensive set of encyclopedias. Cha’ching! And many times, I’d just call on two families a day and sell them both. We’d spend so much time chatting, snacking, relating, or just getting acquainted that it turned out to be much more than just a sale. And my close rate was pretty darn high.
Would an email have made that sale? What if I had sent a sample chapter of the book or a nice letter to their home? I doubt any of these alone would have gotten my foot in the door. The soundest way to help your potential customer connect to something valuable (i.e., to buy) comes from the folks who know their business best: the owner and the employees. Personal contact centered on listening to them and showing them how you’ve got something that can intersect in a most tremendous way beats any list or letter any day.