Life is infinitely better together and I think that is something we can all agree on. As true as that is, it still seems that people are living their lives more and more in isolation and behind screens. Let me encourage you to do something a little cray cray… pick up the phone and make a call. I honestly don’t care to whom, just make the call.
Good, now that we have started to loosen up, I want you to do something really crazy. What I need you to do is think about the people you interact with on social media or those you work with, but have only talked with through email. Narrow it down to one person, and give them a call. Don’t have their number? Doesn’t matter. Reach out and ask for it. Don’t make this some weird awkward hopeful date thing. This is a you genuinely caring about another human being that you have done life with kind of a thing.
I have been able to do this a handful of times over the past couple of months and it has been such a great learning opportunity. Here are just a handful of things I have learned:
- Know your personal brand. This gives clarity for the big and small decisions we’ll make.
- Patience, mixed with realistic expectations, is what will help you as you navigate business and the need to not only provide for your family, but also close deals and provide for your customers.
- Vague beginnings lead to chaotic endings.
- Culture is everything. Make sure it is their from the beginning of your business and not something you halfheartedly add at the end.
These four brilliant nuggets of gold are what I have learned from others. Please, do us all a favor and grow your network and community by authentically caring about others and getting to know them. One last word of caution. Don’t go into these conversations trying to dig out some brilliant life lesson. Go into the conversation with some general questions and direction, but let it go where it goes.
Who do you need to call? What did you learn?
You want to know why you are losing sales? It’s because you don’t think that deal is possible. Heck, we all do it. We have that conversation, look over the details, crunch the numbers, fail time and time again and we decide that whatever it is, is just impossible to get.
The real issue, it’s that we don’t have realistic expectations of what it will take to accomplish that goal / task / ambition. Plus, we try and push too fast in the relationship and instead of finding out their actual needs and how we can help, we just make the offer… which falls on deaf and/or angry ears.
Please, take a moment to read to this quick story because I promise it will help, even if not right now.
I just closed a deal with someone who has become a great friend over the past few years. His name is Bo Cordell and he is a freaking champion, you should get to know him. Around three years ago he stopped by Tip Top and it was a great meeting. He left with no business in hand, BUT he had started some key relationships with our company. As time went on, I became the traffic manager with sole responsibility of bringing on new carriers and the needs of our company started changing. Beyond that, we spent about a year and a half getting coffee once a month just to shoot the shit, talk shop, and get to know each other even better.
About a year ago he received a fantastic promotion, just another reason that shows how much of a #boss that he is, and he moved back to his home town. Since then, we have had fairly regular calls, one of which further cemented our professional relationship.
After three years, we just closed a deal with his company. It never felt forced, it always felt natural, and the whole time we talked biz we grew our friendship. I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow, especially as we are potentially starting another exciting adventure together with a few others. More details on that to come at a later date.
Ahhhh the infamous gatekeeper. The holder of the keys and the bosses schedule. The one who decides who gets to go beyond the proverbial curtain and see the wizard… too much? Gatekeepers, we all know them, we all struggle with them at times, and in fact, at some point or another we all are one of them. Gatekeepers are an integral part of companies and when they do their job well, they save the person they work with a lot of wasted time and effort.
The question to ask yourself, especially in sales, is how do you get past the gatekeeper, especially when there is one of those convenient no soliciting signs?
What I have seen and experienced work best is when we create a point of connection. To do that, you need to be incredibly observant of your surroundings and the non-verbal cues that individual is giving. To create a point of connection, as you are walking up to that persons desk and starting a conversation, you need to see if there is anything that can be a connection that you can talk about. If there is a picture of their dog on the desk, you can start bringing up their pet and ask questions. You also need to have questions prepared that will help you to go beyond the surface and get you some real information. What I mean is that you don’t just want to find out the dogs name, you also want to see if it has a favorite toy or treat. Once you are loaded with that information, as you follow up with that office again in a couple weeks, you come in to talk to Carol about her dog and you hand her a present for her fur baby that ends up being their favorite kind of toy. As you begin creating this good will and influence with this individual, you are making lots of relational deposits so that when you eventually go for the ask, it doesn’t feel like much of a draw on the relationship because you have already given so much.
If there are not any pictures to draw some data from, you have to be armed with some general questions that will lead to uncommon commonalities. Not only that, you have to realize that surprisingly enough, they don’t want to spend all day with you. That being said, getting past the gatekeeper takes time. As you focus on forming a genuine connection instead of getting past them, opportunities to do just that will start to pop up. Maybe instead of dropping off just your business card, you stop on by with a handful of gift cards for a local restaurant or coffee shop for the gatekeeper to use and share with others in the office. Maybe you bring by handwritten thank you cards. Maybe you don’t go straight for the person who you eventually need to meet, but instead you start to meet other people of influence at the company like the people who run the warehouse. Remember, the person you think you need to meet may not actually be the one to get you the business.
Think about doing business differently and start thinking about how you can form common points of connection that just may lead to the opportunity for you to make a sale.