Are you wasting your customers’ time?
In this pressurized, multi-tasking world, where your customers are expected to produce more in less time, they may be growing less eager to meet with you than they were just a year ago. Time is more precious today than ever before, and your customers are feeling the pressure.
In order for your customers to reliably make time to see you, they need to expect that they will gain some value for the time spent with you. That means that, if you are going to be successful in the world of B2B sales, you’ll need to create a reputation that time spent with you is worth the investment. If, over time, you can create that idea in the minds of your customers, you’ll find them generally willing to meet with you when you call. And in an economy where “too much to do and not enough time to do it” is the prevalent mind set, that reputation is a valuable asset.
As is always the case, it starts with thoughtfulness and preparation. As we prepare for a sales call, we so often we think about what we want to accomplish and what we want to gain out of the sales call. Very few sales people ever give any thought to what the customer gets out of it. That’s the starting point.
Here’s a little mental trick to help you. Before every sales call, when you are thinking about what you want to do, and what tools and materials you’ll need, take a moment and ask “What is the customer going to gain out of this time he spends with me?”
Here’s a list of some possible answers:
- Some good ideas to help him in his business or his job.
- Some ways to help him gain more business.
- Some ways to distinguish himself from others.
- Some ideas about how to reduce his costs.
- Some good things to think about.
- You helped him resolve some conflict.
- You helped him simplify things.
- You helped him solve some problem.
- You helped him move closer to some objective.
- You made him feel better about himself or his business.
- He got to spend time with your charming and entertaining personality.
The answer probably lies somewhere within the top ten items on that list. If you can’t name anything that the customer will gain, then you can safely assume that the time the customer spends with you in that sales call will be a waste of his time. Your relationship may be able to withstand one or two of those, but in the long-term, wasted time will destroy a business relationship.
If you are going to bring value to every customer, every time, then you’ll need to spend more time preparing to do so. That brings us to two simple rules to add value to every sales call:
- Present something, every time.
- Ask something, every time.
Present something, every time, means exactly that.
You should, in every sales call with every customer and prospect, have something to talk about, to educate him on, which may be of value to him.
You can, for example, have an idea that you share. Maybe an idea that will help him…
* cut costs
* increase revenues
* save time
* do something better or easier
* make him more valuable
* make his job easier.
You may have a story you can tell that provides an example of how someone gained a benefit, or solved a problem.
You could present a new product, a new product line, or a new application for an existing product of which he may not be aware.
You could present a service that your company offers in which he may be interested.
And finally, you could present a proposal to buy something from you. The important thing here is that you prepare to present something to every customer and every prospect on every sales call. And not just anything, but rather something that this particular customer may find of value to him.
Don’t forget rule number two:
Ask something on every sales call with every customer and every prospect. And I don’t mean a question like, “What do you think of the weather today?” Ask a question that causes the prospect/customer to
- think about his job or his business in some different way,
- consider something that he has probably not thought of before,
- clarify some values, goals, objectives or strategies.
In my book, Question Your Way to Sales Success, I make the point that the ultimate power of a good question is that it causes the other person to think. The thinking process that results is the value that a customer may receive from the time spent with you. The purpose of the question is not for you to gain information, rather, it is to direct the customer to think about some things in different ways, so that the customer receives some value.
If you take the time to individually prepare something to present, and something to ask for each sales call, you will, more times than not, be perceived as bringing some value to the customer. Over time, he’ll be more and more willing to meet with you. And that reputation will be one of your greatest strengths in the marketplace.