About two weeks ago I attended a chamber of commerce luncheon. This was my first time meeting with this particular chamber and therefore I knew only a couple of people there.
As it is accustomed to do, we went around the room, introducing ourselves and giving our 30 second commercials. The last individual to introduce herself was very uneducated in the way of business networking, which I think, is something very common among small business owners.
We will call this lady Ana. Ana is a nice person, very happy and excited about life. She had a huge smile on her face and was very supportive of the others in the group. But when Ana got up to do her 30 second commercial I think everyone stopped listening. I can not honestly recall what she said in her 30 second commercial, that was more like 2 minutes, but I can remember it was a sales pitch. She proceeded to tell everyone about one of the products she sells and why we should all buy it before Christmas.
When we were free to mingle, Ana came to talk to me. Our conversation went something like this. She asked me what I do, then proceeded to tell me why I should buy her product. I mentioned that I use one of her competitors and she scoffed at me. Telling me all the bad things about the service I was using and said that I probably use it because it is free. My first reaction was to try to defend myself and why I use that product. But I knew it would only be a waist of my energy because she wouldn’t listen. My second thought was to tell her how she just ruined any chance she might have had to add me to her prospect list. Her approach was a bad reflection on herself and the company she represents, it was a huge turn off.
I wanted to tell her all of these things while we were talking, but I didn’t want to be the bad guy on my first day, so I sent her an email a week later.
This is the email I sent…
It was nice meeting you last week. I have been meaning to send you this email. I wanted to point out two observations I made while we were talking that I think might really help you be more successful.
You must know, it is important that you are teachable for this feedback to be effective. I share this with complete respect and purposeful intent. If you do not feel teachable please do not read the rest of this email. It may lead to resent, which is not my purpose.
In your introduction you were more focused on selling your products then being a valuable resource. What would be more effective is to tell people what you do, and invite them to a meet with you to discover how you might be able to save them time and money.
Then when you meet with people you do a needs analysis, looking at what they are currently using, what it cost, what they like or dislike, etcâ€¦Then you, not selling, but informing them on specifics, show them how your services/products can help them, focusing on what they just told you about their services, not on what you think will be of interest to them.
Just doing this can increase your business dramatically!
When I mentioned to you that I use [a competitor], you scoffed at me, and began making commits about what a bad service [the competitor] is and how it’s free and that is why everyone uses it, etc…
To be honest, at that very moment, I was completely turned off by you; and determined I would never do business with you.
If I was a legitimate prospect, I would no longer be; and would likely avoid you every time I saw you.
I could defend [competitor] and tell you why it is a good service and why I use it and even though they have a free version I could explain why I pay for their services. But you don’t care! Or at lest that is what I understood about your comments and body language. I even had the thought that you have probably never used [competitor] and clearly do not know what they offer as a service. This makes you irrelevant to me if I’m a prospect.
So I tell you this because I am sure that I’m not the first person to have this type of encounter with you. Do you see how your approach is destructive? It does not enable you to build relationships or properly promote your services. Instead it has a counter effect. Drives people away and gives your company a bad name.
In the one-on-one approaches like we had, you should have the same focus, learn all you can about what the prospect currently uses and why they use it. Identify their pain points and allow them to tell you why they would buy from you. Don’t assume you know what everyone needs. Even if you think your products/services are the best thing on the market, it takes 3-5 exposures before any prospect will see that. Your job is to educate people on how your service will assist them with the problems they have. Not with the problems you think they have!
I hope this information is helpful. Again, I want you to be successful; and be able to help as many people as possible. The best salespeople are always consultants (a person who provides expert advice professionally).
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help!
Ana responded to this email with gratitude for my willingness to take my time and provide this “positive constructive feedback”.
I’m sharing this on my blog because I think it is important that more people learn how to properly network. I understand that we only make money when we sell our products and services, but we’d be much more effective salespeople when we learn to put our focus on the prospect, ask good questions, and find ways to add value to their lives and businesses.
For an example of the Business Analysis I use when meeting with prospects can be seen here. I encourage you to go through the three pages, answering the question as if we were meeting to discuss your business. Once you fill out the form, you’ll receive an email with the questions and your answers. Tailor these questions to what you do. And it may be so simple as just using page 2 for your needs analysis interviews.
How do you add value to your prospects; and how do you show people you’re interested in their business?