Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pyramids and fence posts

One of the best things about the friends we have in our lives for many years is that we knew them when. So when they give us advice we can more realistically evaluate the merit of that advice.

If we've been friends with a person for several years, we know -- when they start spouting off about any situation -- whether they've walked the walk or if they're just talking the talk.

Today I had the pleasure of having lunch with an old friend who gave me some really great advice for breaking out of my sales slump. She's walked the walk and I've watched her. In fact, I had no idea she'd broken through to success with sales. She doesn't seem to have the financial urgency that I have because she has a professional husband and I think he makes a pretty good income. So I'd no idea things had started clicking with her and her sales job.

To be honest with you, I really didn't expect my friend's sales job to work out based upon some conversations we had six or eight months ago. I just didn't expect that she had it in her to become a sales star. I figured she could earn a little money at it if she kept at it. But I didn't expect, based on our conversations. that she'd get really good at it. And, in fact, I sort of thought she had more-or-less stopped trying and had been just working for the organization she is with for some sort of educational experience -- like maybe she would move into another area -- marketing, management, something other than sales. But I'll be damned if this old friend of mine hasn't come into her own as a saleswoman! Dang! I'm proud of her and also inspired. She's a more quiet and academic person than I am. She doesn't seem like a sales person at all to me. But she's selling stuff, quite a lot of stuff, actually, -- in Michigan, in the recession. And this is all new to her. She hadn't been in sales before this. I think it's pretty cool that she's making a go of it and it inspires me to press on.

She told me I needed to identify who my clients are and focus all of my energy upon doing business with them. She said she has found sales is like a pyramid. She has found that at the bottom of the pyramid, and where she had been spending a ton of time, are the potential clients who don't know anything about the product, who don't know if they need the product and who may or may not have the resources to buy the product. Most everybody fits into the bottom of the pyramid. Then she identified there was another level in the pyramid closer to the top, closer to the sale, but still not where the sales would happen. This section of the pyramid is full of clients who understand the use for the product and understand the need for the product but do not have a means to pay for the product and have not necessarily considered a plan for using the product themselves. At the top of the pyramid are the customers who understand the use for the product, have a plan in place for how they might use the product, and have some money in place to buy the product.

She said she started focusing exclusively on that top section of the pyramid and she found she stopped wasting time. She sold bunches and bunches of the stuff she sells in one month. She looked across the table at me very seriously.

"You need to figure out what kind of people are at the top of your pyramid and focus on them."

It was an Ah Ha moment. A week or so ago an economic developer friend of mine who has been reading my blog sometimes told me I needed to avoid swinging at fences and start focusing on hitting some home runs.

I didn't know what he meant. But after listening to some sales CDs I thought he meant I needed to spend more time building relationships with my all of my leads -- sending them little notes, giving them phone calls, etc. I thought I needed to court my potential clients as if I were a young man who wanted to be in a romantic relationship. The economic development expert didn't say that; Tom Hopkins, the guy on the sales CD said that. I was just trying to make sense out of the "swinging at fences" thing. I told my friend who recently has become successful in sales about my new note-writing approach..

She said the problem is, you can waste a lot of time courting everybody. You need to really focus in on your target clientele and try to do business with them exclusively.

I thought about who my target clientele is. I've narrowed it down considerably. I don't want to say who it is -- because that would give away my secrets to competitors who might be reading this blog.

But the idea was very helpful.

And I am grateful for the direct advice from someone who has very recently walked this walk.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck, my friend! Here's to hitting home runs!