When it comes to sales entrepreneurs and salespeople often have the wrong end game in mind.
Their focus is on closing deals. And if in a startup, their end game is to close those deals as quickly as possible to develop enough momentum to convince investors to back them at the next financing round.
This is the right thing to do for the time. Well, sort of.
When a startup cracks to sales code for their target market, sales processes can scale and that means much-needed revenue can be generated.
The only issue is that most sales operations that have this endgame in mind (scaled or not), leave value on the table.
The punchline is that they miss out, forget about or de-prioritise the final step of selling: Turning each new customer into an advocate.
Word-of-mouth marketing is born at this step.
I think about it like this: Close a deal means you get paid. Closing a deal and turning a new customer into an advocate instantly increases the likelihood of another sale.
How to create customer advocates
I use two principles to create customer advocates. They are grounded in genuine concern for the success of my customer because I know my success and that of my company is inextricably linked to my customer’s success.
The first principle is to go all-in on after sales service. The objective is to make customers so overwhelmed with prompt and convenience-rich service that they can’t help but talk about you and your product. In practice this means:
- Laying out a rapid path to show that the product I’m selling lives up to the promise
- Widening the group of people working to implement the product (beyond the person who did the deal on the customer side) to create relationships and communication channels that will help me, help them be successful
- Being available 24/7 via phone to answer questions and provide support
The second principle is more an accidental habit. I enjoy learning about the people with whom I do business. And I know that work is one part of life and for most of us, there is family and also a hobby, interest or side-hustle.
I invest time asking questions to learn about these things. Because while the product we’re discussing is interesting and will no-doubt create value, there is always more to life.
Many salespeople won’t reach out to wish a customer happy birthday, send them a YouTube video about their hobby that will make them smile or offer to connect them with another relationship that might add a new dimension of value to their life.
I do because I enjoy it. And because it’s essential to building trust and sustaining relationships.
Case in point – WorkInc
A great example of these principles in action is WorkInc, the company that operates inkl’s Sydney office.
The Saturday before I officially joined inkl I needed to find an office. At 7:30 am on the following Monday I called the three co-working spaces I had researched on the weekend. Only one had a mobile phone number on their website.
The first one didn’t answer (and did not have a voicemail service)
The second one didn’t answer (but I left a message)
The third one had a mobile number on their website. I SMS’d the number and outlined my needs.
Four minutes later I had a reply and by 8:45 am on the same day I was in an office. By 9:00 am I could access Wi-Fi, 24/7 fingerprint access was sorted and I was joining the daily standup.
During that week Tom, the General Manager, took me for coffee to learn more about inkl. He also learned about my side hustle and offered to find me a place to record my podcast.
I became a huge advocate for WorkInc and have introduced a number of new customers to Tom as a result.
Starting at the beginning with new salespeople
As I was writing this post and thinking about customer advocates I was asked why people are afraid of working in sales.
Starting in sales is an obvious precursor to growing in sales and creating customer advocates.
So why are people afraid of working in sales?
I think there are four reasons.
First, they have never been shown how to create value for another person or experienced the exhilaration when that person appreciates that value.
Second, they are scared of being told no.
Third, they haven’t found something they would love to sell.
Fourth, they equate being in sales as being a used car, snake oils salesman.
Let’s do some myth busting.
On creating value
Look back on the last time you did something for a friend, colleague or family member that genuinely helped them.
Their reaction was genuine, one of surprise and gratitude.
You might have saved them time, moved them further away from fear or closer to happiness.
They may or may not have expected it but it was you who did it.
You met a need.
This is the heart of great sales.
On being told ‘No’
You will always hear more No than Yes in sales.
No of it is personal and there will be factors you can see and those you can’t which influence a ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
Sales can be a grind and it’s made more difficult when your expectations are unrealistic. I expect on my run rate business to be told ‘No’ 200 times for every ‘Yes’. I expect to hear No 50 times for every yes on strategic deals.
Does it play out that way?
But the mindset is important to help push through the grind.
On loving what you sell
If you’re not 110% bought into the product you’re selling, stop selling it and move on.
It’s that simple.
And don’t mistake fatigue for not loving the product. We all get tired. The grind takes its toll.
BUT if you stand up a little taller and talk a little faster when you’re pitching the product, no matter how tired you are, you still love the product.
Turn off your devices.
Get some sleep.
Eat good food.
And show up the next day.
On how you perceive sales
I wrote about how I felt when a manager first told me I thought I was a sales guy. It’s not an exaggeration to say I freaked out.
Many people hold onto the persona of a used car, snake oils salesman as what salespeople are like.
The best salespeople are focused on their customer’s long-term success and doing whatever is necessary to turn them into their advocates.
Because their success depends on it.
You will find these 8 characteristics in the best salespeople:
- Use data to form compelling pitches
- Understand the value of time (and don’t waste any of the customer’s time and they optimise their own)
- Deliver value three or four times before a sale is made
- Do the unscalable (like keeping an eye out for insight and resources that will make their prospective customers’ life easier or travelling 20 hours to make an important meeting)
- Respond quickly to questions and issues
- Teach their techniques and communicate lessons learned to their teams and organisations to a) bring the voice of the customer closer to product development, and b) increase the number of minds that can help get a prospective customer over the line
- Excel at after sales service by personally being involved in implementation, investing time to talk with junior people using the product at customer organisations (to answer questions and address issues) and being available to answer questions. On this last one, everyone at my customer organisations has my cell number and they can call it anytime, no matter where I am in the world.
- Look nothing like a used car salesman
Two last things…
If you’re looking for sales coaching from one of the best in the business, reach out to Sidney Minassian at Sales Native.
I highly recommend both resources and I hope they help.