“Getting in early with the customer means being proactive, not reactive; generous, not selfish; relational, not transactional. It also propels your career and usefulness.”
I’m told that by 4.30am you will find owners of business on the road with traffic nowhere in their thoughts. By 5.30 am, MDs have driven to work, traffic free. The two get in early. From 6.30am FM stations are filled with calls from the rest, complaining bumper to bumper about the traffic. In selling, getting in early with the buyer avoids you ‘traffic’ too. Here’s what it means and how to achieve it.
1: Business-to-Business sellers. Your sales cycle is long. It can take anything from 3 months to 3 years. Even more. Getting in early for you means being involved in the decision making or design stage. For instance, if I’m selling lifts, I want to be present when the architect is designing the building and take note of what he wants to achieve (his vision) with the building. I want to help him with research findings, data or designs that will assist him attain what he wants. This creates trust with the buyer (“we’re in this together”) and also, most certainly locks out the competition. Even if the job will go to tender, it will most certainly be as per your specs and you will have an (unfair?) advantage when submitting your proposal or pitching.
2: Asking for referrals. The importance of referrals cannot be gainsaid. Regrettably, many sellers don’t treat it with the gravity it deserves. It’s not something you do when you feel like it. No. It’s something you do at any time you have shown value. Which doesn’t necessarily mean the buyer having bought. Prospects may give you referrals because they like you even if they don’t buy from you. But you must ask that you may receive. “Please refer me to an architect you have teamed up with before….”; or, in the Principal’s office having discussed your child’s sterling performance, “Engineer Juma is working on the high rise building in Upperhill. From this photo, I see you play football together. Please refer me to him….” Or, if from her desk it is evident she’s a deeply religious person, and you’ve just sold her an account, “Please refer me to two other ladies in your prayer group…”. The objective is to make it easy for the buyer to refer you. And don’t stop there; ask to be introduced right there; ‘Please call him and let him know I’ll be calling on him”. That propels you deep into getting in early with the buyer. Like attracts like and chances are that the referral will be a prospect (not suspect) for your product. And statistics show that 50% of referrals convert. Done in committed fashion, imagine, what that means to your business.
3: Following up. Research says that 80% of sellers give in after the first attempt and only the 20% that follow through to the fourth usually close. Many sellers simply send the proposal, ask to confirm if was received and then hope for the best. Buyers are busy people and appreciate when follow-ups are done that seek to assist them with the decision making-not by drumming on how your credit card has the lowest interest rate in the market but how their impending debut stay in London will be made easier with a credit card as debit cards are not acceptable there, for instance. This means doing what most sellers don’t-wisely follow up and entrench self as an indispensable advisor.
Getting in early with the customer means being proactive, not reactive; generous, not selfish; relational, not transactional. It also propels your career and usefulness.
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