“We live in two worlds,” Dan Ariely of MIT’s Sloan School of Management observes in his book Predictably Irrational. “One characterized by social exchanges and the other characterized by market exchanges.” His point is an important one for those of us in sales, because it reminds us that there’s far more to a top-raked salesperson’s job than just getting people to buy a product.
All business is personal. Being personal means you need to go beyond the transactional part of what you do, and connect with people in a manner that’s authentic and engaging. If you’re having trouble closing new deals and meeting your sales targets right now, it’s worth your time to look at both the market side and the social side of your exchanges with people. The market side involves what you sell. The social side, on the other hand, involves who you connect with and how you do this, so that you remain top-of-mind with people.
Previously, we talked about how you can do this by reinforcing a sense of place in the minds of your audience. Now let’s look at the field-tested activities you’ll need to be doing to get the conversational ball rolling with your customers and prospects.
1. Go beyond the telephone
The business telephone in your pocket or on your desk is still a vital part of sales—make no mistake about it. Today, however, it has tools to complement its immense power. Twenty years ago, you’d make a sales call because apart from face-to-face meetings, this was really the only way to connect with your audience and have a conversation in real-time. Now, with social networking, conversations are streamed and shared via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Even text messaging has a role to play. It could be a text message to a customer’s cell phone. I have a client who is a key decision maker at one of the largest agricultural companies in the world. He’s also notoriously hard to reach. As a result, we do all of our negotiations about contracts via text message. My point here is this: direct communications has evolved beyond just the telephone. You can too.
2. Give gifts that are useful and have value
A gift for a client don’t have to be large or elaborate, but it does have to be suitable to the needs of the person you’re giving it to…otherwise what’s the point, right? For example, it could be a Starbucks gift card with a thank-you note attached, or even a gasoline gift card (ideal for the client who is often on the road). Know someone who enjoys reading We’ve sent more than a few copies of Honesty Sells to clients and prospects, along with a short note attached. There are some of you who sell in environments where corporate gifting isn’t allowed. In that case, maybe you’ll need to be more creative, but one thing is for certain: you can always send a thank-you card to a customer. The gesture will be appreciated and remembered.
3. Connect via direct mail
Direct mail often gets overlooked these days in favour of instantaneous communication tools, such as email and texting. However, it still has a valuable role to play. People get busy and are overwhelmed quickly by the sheer volume of email and voice mail messages that they have to sift through on a daily basis. The same is not true for direct mail when it’s targeted at someone you already know personally. A thoughtful, handwritten letter to a client has the power of showcasing your people skills and your willingness to invest time into have a personalized touch. These are qualities that other methods of communication just cannot mimic.
4. Be memorable
Even at the best of times, it can be hard to get someone’s attention—let alone for a sustained period. That’s why it’s important now, more than ever before, to be memorable in how you reach out to clients and prospects. The key is to leverage the power of doing the unexpected. As Seth Godin wisely once said: “real memories are created by surprises.” Here at Engage Selling, one of the ways we’ve used this approach in the past is by sending items to a client via courier package. It beats standard mail in that it’s personalized, such that it’s likely to get noticed and be remembered.
5. Use powerful subject lines
Legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy once wrote that “on average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 per cent of your money.” When you send an email, the subject line is your headline. The body of your message is what you’re selling. A clever opening line in the subject field—-one that’s just a little out of the ordinary—has a way of pulling in more readers, and sticking in the back of their minds.
One of the most effective emails I’ve sent over the last couple of months in terms of getting callbacks from people who have been ignoring my calls is an email where the subject line is simply “Yes or no?” The body of the message is as follows: “Hey, sorry that I keep missing you. Looking to see if you have a decision, either yes or no. Either is okay.” It’s very simple, and amazingly effective!
I’ve outlined for you five must-do activities to get your customers talking about you. However, there is one more activity that you must keep in mind (much like Sir George Martin was the fifth Beatle, think of this one as always being there in this list). Be consistent! As Daniel Ariely counsels: “You can’t treat your customers like family one moment and then treat them impersonally… a moment later when this becomes more convenient or profitable. This is not how social relationships work.”
Make the investment in social exchanges by all means, but remember that you need to sustain that work for it to be effective.