It was early in the morning, I had just spent time in a tow-truck taking my silver Tiguan to the shop. I just figured it was a starter or something. An hour later the guy from the shop took me aside and proceeded to tell me that the “free floating engine” broke a chain and blended every working part into an expensive steel smoothie. He gave me the news that I had a paperweight on my hands. Ugh!
Stunned… I considered my options and walked next door to see if I could buy a car. I was the trapped customer, looking for a way home.
It was on a test drive that I saw an opportunity for comedy. I found myself making my new best friend, Nick the salesman, laugh as I managed to punch up the pain I was feeling. As he let me know about the luxurious seats and amazing stereo system. I realized I really didn’t care about the amenities. I just wanted to get home for a low monthly payment.
A while ago I listened to a book by Darren Hardy about “The Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster” He recalled a sales story of a real estate agent that was killing it in the field. His secret? He didn’t sell real estate. To Jack with an amazing car collection, the agent sold a state of the art garage. To Janet and Fitz that love cooking together, he sold an amazing kitchen. All of his sales were in fact condos, but it wasn’t the condo that these people were buying.
I have just recently looked into selling. When you go to the effort of writing a book; have it become a best seller, and then watch it get dangerously close to #1 on the charts, the altruistic concept of not selling your book sort of gets re-prioritized. It made me ask, do I need to play the sales game too?
I was recently talking to my friend Tony Morales who does sales for a living, and he told me this: “Nobody wants to be sold anything, but people love to buy stuff! Add value to people’s lives and you won’t have to sell anything. They’ll be asking you for what you have.” I think that is the shift in mindset that I need to take on this four letter word called “SELL”. No one wants to be sold anything just like I don’t want to to be slimy and gross. But I do love buying stuff! And I will save up my money and buy a book that will make my life easier, better and more fun.
I continued my conversation with Tony and then extended it to my friend and locker partner in high school John Le who is a Colonial Life representative. Both of them do sales for a living. They Sell you stuff! This information may initially cause you to put up your personal shield. But in our conversations, both of them emphasized that what they do is: form relationships with people and then solve their problems. More than anything else, it is their job to spend time getting to know you. If it works that their products are the solutions to your problems then win/win!
I do love buying stuff that makes my life better! And I do love people who know me well enough to let me in on their “secrets to the good life.” In listening to my two friends I have found a new clarity on what sales is: It is sharing stuff that is cool with your friends… to buy. The scary “SALES” word can be transformed into simply making people’s lives better with stuff that you think would make their lives better. The trick is: you have to KNOW them well enough to be able to know what would make their life better.
Most salesmen have what is called a CRM, or what is known as a client relationship management. CRM is a system that companies use to manage customer interactions with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth. This is language that is best re-interpreted for me: Grow my friendships to the level where I am able to know what stuff will make their lives cooler. A CRM is simply a way to keep up on your friends. Their birthdays, who they are, what their kids enjoy, when was the last time you went out etc. Seriously, I need this for my real friends, let alone the people that I am trying to SELL!
As I think about this, in my old world, perhaps I was thinking of my customers not as friends, but as commodities? Sponges that need to be wrung out, so that I could let the water drip within my piggy bank? What if I saw my book, my class and my products from Farm2Table Comedy as cool stuff that could make my friends’ lives better. It might mean that my relationships with potential clients and sponsors might deepen and grow more rich (both monetarily and in depth of relationship). I like it! How can I grow my friendships to the level where I know what would make their lives rock?
I asked Tony and John how they get to that level with people: where they know who a person is, to naturally share with them stuff that is cool. They both had a simple answer: “Connect with them and ask questions!” Could it be that getting people to “buy cool stuff” is as easy as taking the time to frequently see them, and ask them about what makes them tick? In a world of group texts, mass emails and sales funnels, is my problem that I am just too busy to get to know the people that could change my economic strata? My lunch date calendar says “yup!”
But what happens when you move to a larger market? …The internet. The place where sales gurus tell you “I had six figures in six days.” all it takes is this webinar and I made my first million. Does friendship still apply?
After the launch of my book in August, I realized that the internet is a really big place. I exhausted my friends on facebook, spent days sending personal emails that “I just wrote a book!!!” I posted on all of the free or buck a book sites. And then it all stopped. My friendships and acquaintances ran out. What happens when your dance card gets full and your list of friends have all bought your book? How do you extend your “friendship” to people that you might not be able to sit down to coffee with?
I was talking to my friend Alex Genadinik who creates Udemy courses for a living. He says he gets over this hurdle by thinking about what he can offer his new “friends” to make them want to connect on a deeper level. He posts on facebook groups asking for people to review his new courses, and then when people reach out, he gives them value after value. Not only do they get to take his courses for free, but he spends time thinking about what these people actually need. Later, when Udemy discounts his courses, the relationship has been formed and people feel like “buying stuff.”
Another way he breaks down the internet friendship wall is by using his home studio for Udemy. He pairs video with a welcoming message on his communication condensing his sales process drastically. He has found that high quality “talking head welcome videos” amplify his message of “here’s my cool stuff!” with a human touch. By seeing and hearing the “sales-friend” it allows the viewer to more quickly and accurately make the decision on whether they are actually worth pursuing.
Extending this concept, if I look at the email newsletters, podcasts and blogs that I subscribe to, The work of content creation is really the work of broadcasting value to others. It is the problem solving without the relationship. If you can give people enough value consistently, it works backwards: valuable problem solving will create the opening of relationship and then you can show them cool stuff… to buy.
Could it be that my friends were selling me on sales? If they were, I think they were all keying in on the fact that it was my pain point. The thing that I needed answers to. Thankfully their answers didn’t come at me in the crazy mocheesmo of Grant Cardone. Yelling at me that I “need grow a spine do more cold calls.” Instead it was far simpler: reach out, learn about your friends, provide value, show them cool stuff…to buy.
Going back to my time with Nick the salesman and the the silver Tiguan. It meant more to me that Nick laughed at my jokes then finding out about the bluetooth dash. To this day, because of his interest in me, and his genuine laughs, I still connect with him via email. And when my next car blends itself into oblivion, he’s the one I will call.