To survive in business, you have to sell.
Selling is a part of the business. It's the keystone to growth.
From what I've learned working in some of the best businesses, small to large, is that the important bit is HOW you sell. Because if a transaction is all you care about, you're in for a tough time.
The most successful businesses are the ones that have been able to create a bond with their customers, creating value, not just a means to profit. They put the culture and relationships above everything and humanise the process.
And what is the best way to start creating this bond? Through reciprocity.
Reciprocity. The gift that keeps giving?
For me, from my experience and the culture, I've experienced along the way. It's about slow, conscious relationships with the desire to build a relationship. No matter the outcome.
We've all be the beneficiary of a gift. That free coffee your favourite barista gives you, endearing you to that coffee shop even more. Or the barman who 'makes is a double' for you, no questions asked. These are relationship-building actions.
These actions do not have a manipulative intent. But there is a science behind this. And Robert Cialdini outlines it perfectly in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. We are hard-wired as humans to respond positively to a gift, but to build a genuine bond with a customer; you have to give without any expectation of a return.
Giving and marketing
When appropriately implemented, giving to your customers can be an incredible marketing tool, driving loyalty as well as referrals. The danger is that without being authentic in your gift, you risk alienating a customer, even creating resentment towards a feeling of being manipulated.
It's now even more apparent to me, as a brand owner, rather than being in an agency, now being on the receiving end of sales outreach.
So, what are the key things you need to do to build giving into your marketing?
Give value - Gifts need to have some value. In digital marketing, this is especially important where white papers, slides and other content which get given out so freely. If the content you are sharing isn't useful, your audience will feel that you owe them, for wasting their time.
Give first – You must be genuinely giving. How many times have you seen a whitepaper that you wanted to read and lost interest when you were asked for something first? Too many times, businesses ask for more details than necessary before giving the whitepaper. They have turned their gift into an ask. Try giving the value without an upfront ask, offering more content in exchange for details after the first gift will yield loyal followers, who know the value of your content and will want more.
Get personal – The more personal you are with your approach, the more your customer will feel valued and choose to reciprocate. We have moved into a world where digital communication is normal. A simple handwritten note to your key customer or prospect can break through the noise and let them know you genuinely care about them. And for god's sake, pick up the bloody phone or meet with them instead of emailing someone.
Help the customer with something unrelated – This is something I recently experienced; a connection on LinkedIn sent me a link to some useful content. It wasn't theirs, and it had nothing to do with their business. They sent me a short message and the link to the article. Of course, the first thing I did was check out their profile and look at what they do, and you can be sure when I need a Growth Marketing Agency, I'll be calling! As it happens, i did, and they're great.
Don't forget them – The lack of perseverance is the cardinal sin most salespeople make. Engaging with them is key to building any relationship. The customer might not have bought today. Indeed they may never buy, and you should expect no more.
It took me five years to close one of my biggest deals for a bank, which sounds ridiculous. But perseverance and always giving value can pay off long term. And you know what, it will be a better relationship for it.
Some thoughts to leave you with
Remember that building a relationship isn't just one way; make sure you are asking them the right questions, getting them to tell you more about the problems you could solve. Because it takes on average 6-8 touchpoints with a potential customer to turn them into a lead.
Using those touchpoints as opportunities to create and demonstrate value can shorten your sales cycle. If you have a long sales cycle you know how important reducing that time can be; by sharing some of your knowledge and expertise, you create an environment of trust and an environment that your customer wants to give back to you.
Most importantly, lower your expectations. Don't sell. Build a relationship, and if that person is going to buy, they'll buy at some point. Otherwise, you're just another person making the 'Sales' word even dirtier. And the worst case scenario form not selling too hard? Is that you'll have a strong network for it.
And the secret sauce, if there was one, is about being human about it. The people you're trying to 'close' are human beings too. So be respectful and treat them as such. They're not just a row on in your chosen CRM platform.
Finally, don't forget sales is a numbers game. Put enough in the top of the funnel, with the right approach, culture and mindset, and it will work out for you.