BIG Words: Ravish with delight
As a small business operator, you should always delight your prospects, even if they don’t become a customer. Pete Baker explains.
Last year I was on an overseas business trip, visiting prospective new customers with a local sales rep who distributed several of my product lines.
During our conversations, a company came up that I thought might be a good candidate for some of my product lines. The sales rep said it may be difficult to get a meeting with the dealer because he is very busy. I suggested he mention that I was in town and would like to see him, since we had developed a nice business relationship in the past. The distributor took my advice, and the dealer was delighted to schedule a meeting with us for the next morning.
We arrived early to the dealer’s showroom the next morning and were not surprised to witness a very active work environment and the owner very busy kicking off the business activities for the day. When we settled in the conference room, we spent the first 15 minutes just catching up and talking about our families, life and development in our business and careers since we last met (roughly five years prior). The owner then asked me to tell him about my business and some of the brands and products I was representing.
Towards the end of the conversation, I asked if he would like to hear about a specific brand I was representing, in a product category that we both knew he already had filled by one of my competitors. I could sense reluctance, but after a long pause he said, “I’ll give you five minutes”.
If five minutes was all he had to offer me, I thought I better make this meaningful. Well, five turned into 10 and 10 turned into 20. We enjoyed a very rich conversation about the merits of the brand and benefits to his business. I did not ask for any commitment because it would have been inappropriate at that time. We shook hands, I thanked the business owner for the time he invested with us and we went off to our next meeting.
When I returned home from my business trip, I followed up with each dealer we met with over the course of the visit. When I contacted the abovementioned business owner, I provided him with further materials related to our conversation and thanked him again for his time. Later that week, I received a call from the local sales rep to tell me that he just finished a conversation with the business owner, who called to tell him that he was immediately switching all of his business over to our brand. Our five minute opportunity resulted in an initial order of over $100,000!
The local sales rep and I were clearly ecstatic to hear the news and to welcome this incredible dealer to our brand of products. But, please understand that I am not some magic sales guy with secret talents, which is why I reflected long and hard on what we may have done right to earn the business from this well-respected businessman and his company. The following are some lessons I learned from this experience and others leading up to it:
1) Make the meeting delightful for your prospect
Years ago, I was preparing for a very big meeting that could have a very serious positive impact on my business. I had cold called a prospect and asked for five minutes of his time at an upcoming trade show to introduce myself. Leading up the meeting I had prepared excessively: writing and rehearsing what I would say and how I could win the business from this prospect.
The morning before the meeting I went for a run and listened to a podcast interview with Adam Robinson, a world class chess master. When Adam was a freshman in high school someone beat him in chess in just five moves. He was so fascinated by the skillful and efficient tactics of his opponent that he became obsessed with chess and specifically with the tactics developed by renowned world champion chess player Bobby Fischer. In fact, he would read through and recreate chess moves of every documented game by Mr Fischer.
One day, as a teenager, he was in central NYC with his mother when he spotted Bobby Fischer walking down the street. Adam turned to his mother and said “mom, I need to meet him”. So Adam ran across the street and graciously introduced himself to his idol, then began asking him very specific and detailed questions related to moves he had chosen in certain games. Fischer was so delighted with the conversation, he invited Adam to join him for lunch and that day was the start of a close friendship between the two.
When Adam was asked in the interview what advice he would give to someone in a similar ‘golden opportunity’ he said, “I made the meeting all about him”. Adam didn’t have a goal to develop a close relationship with the chess master. He simply wanted to have an enjoyable conversation with him, and the result was a close relationship.
As I contemplated this and prepared for my ‘golden opportunity’, I told myself to make the meeting about him (i.e. my prospect). My goal shifted from my interest of winning the business, to making the conversation and meeting delightful for my prospect. I decided the most important focus for the meeting was to make sure my prospect felt the meeting was worthwhile and enjoyable to him, because his time was valuable.
Once I made this decision, a massive weight lifted off my shoulders and the meeting resulted in success. This was also the case with my meeting with the business owner; I knew his time was valuable and it was more important to me that he felt the meeting was a worthwhile investment of his time and he enjoyed visiting with us. If he enjoyed the visit, maybe I won’t earn his business that day, but we will likely be welcomed back for another opportunity in the future.
The long-term relationship is far more important than a short term order. You may be thinking that some prospects will never come back to you again, which is very possible. However, if you make a lasting, positive impact on them maybe they will tell others to call you or you may cross paths again in the future, as I did with the business owner.
2) Focus on what is important to your prospect, not you
In my meeting with the business owner, we spent the first 15 minutes just discussing his family, business, life and his local market. During the course of the conversation, I became educated about some of the issues he is faced with in his business: competition, limited number of lead technicians, system design challenges, etc. As the famous saying goes: “God gave us two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately.”
Take time to listen to your prospect and be willing and able to stop talking and learn about their needs during the meeting. When it came time for the five minutes to discuss my brand, I focused on how we can have a positive impact on the challenges he shared with us. I invested zero time in technical features and focused exclusively on the benefits to him and his business.
3) Follow up and follow through
As I mentioned, the first action item for me when I returned from my trip was to contact each person, who I had met with during the course of my visit, to thank them for the time they invested with me. I also took notes on any follow up items and made sure to act on these immediately upon returning to my office.
Make sure to have your priorities clearly organised before going into any meeting and you will likely experience much better satisfaction with the correct measure of success.