A tale of two clients. I have had many clients over the last 20 years in sales. All of them provide me with interesting experiences that continue to shape my career and life. Here I share some insights from two clients I had at the same time.
I was introduced to Client A through another client and after a brief phone call, we scheduled a meeting at her office several days later. Thanks to the referral from a mutually trusted friend, it was easy for Client A and I to establish common ground. We scheduled a demo some weeks later that lead directly to a low-commitment ‘trial’ order. Over the next several months, her orders were consistent until she asked me how I could help her business grow.
After this pivotal point, we began a long-term engagement that helped her business grow from solo operation through managing 12 employees. Over 6.5 years that we worked together, she was one of my most profitable clients. At one point, she actually gave me keys to her business so that I could start a training workshop for her team before she was able to get there.
I began prospecting this client because they were one of the larger, more reputable retailers in the market and had operational beliefs that were similar enough to mine that there could be an easy transition. After a couple requests for meetings, schedules aligned for us to meet and discuss options to do business together. In a professional manner, 3 different offers to purchase were rejected over the following 12 months.
More than a year later, one of the owners called me desperately wanting to purchase one of my new product lines. We quickly arranged pricing, delivery, and payment terms for this ‘game-changer’ of a product.
Their first order was for $1200, I immediately arranged a brief training workshop, and another order of equal size followed the next month. I thought I had my foot in the door with one of the best clients available.
They made a complaint about one of the most expensive products that was happily replaced. Then the complaint happened again; and a third time. It was obvious to me that it was not the product, but the way it was being used – a situation that was covered in full training. I offered to cover a full training workshop, but it was never scheduled. The orders stopped coming in.
Lessons I learned:
- Understand their situation/needs.
This is more than just knowing the details of the order. It is about taking time to build trust and offer customized solutions to fit their needs. With Client B, we were both in such a rush to close the deal and make money that neither of us ultimately made much of it. Client A started much smaller and built tremendous momentum over time.
- Uncover emotional challenges and benefits.
Contracts and financial commitments are important for business, but emotional commitment is significantly more powerful. This is brand loyalty at its finest! With strong enough emotional connections, price, performance, quality, deliverability, and every other challenge gets reduced to zero.
- Present and follow a growth plan.
This is about committing to their growth (compared to padding your commissions). It is about how they can get maximum benefit from your current services. It is also about adding new products/services as necessary. It doesn’t need to be formally presented, but does need to be a regular reminder. Otherwise there will be negotiations on price.
- Follow the process.
Once a pattern or process is established, it will get easier to follow. It should be a smooth, flowing process that brings efficiency and creativity. It is equally important to refine and evolve the process as it is to follow it in the first place.
I’ve had several versions of Client A throughout my career. They are steady, consistent, and enjoyable on both personal and professional levels. They continue to inspire me to be and bring my best.
I have had hundreds of versions of Client B who come and go with striking similarity. They seem to operate like fireworks – dazzling beauty that illuminates the entire sky for a brief moment before fading into darkness.
These simple lessons are what separate sales professionals from mere order-takers. I hope they benefit you as much as they have benefitted me.