Monday, September 13, 2010

The Customers Story

I recently read a post over at {grow} which was part of the community this week guest post series by a man named George Cooper. The post was about the power of story telling in relating to customers, clients, fellow employees and more importantly other human beings.

I really enjoyed the post because I relate to the idea of using story telling to build relationships with other people. Within my job as a salesman telling my own stories and listening to potential customers stories makes fertile ground for the growth of a relationship. I find that all of the folks who have signed MPS contracts or bought equipment from me reacted with almost instant positive energy when I took an honest interest in their stories and who they are as human beings.

I earnestly enjoy learning about how my customers got into the industry they work in, what their families are like, the hobbies they enjoy and the other things in life they are passionate about. Often times (though not always) the sales pitch is nothing more than a short lived quasi-necessity that is bypassed in importance by the sharing of who we are as humans in the journey of life, when speaking with a new prospect.

For example, a few weeks back I spoke with an older woman in the IT department of a local college who is a new prospect. I left the school where she works at knowing that she loved dogs, grew up on a farm and had a degree in computer science and also learned about the different schools she attended while getting her degree. Before leaving her office she showed me pictures of her dogs and spoke with me about how much she really enjoys animals, as a dog lover myself we shared a short conversation about how great dogs really are.

Walking out of the building I knew that I was already not just another "indifferent professional" to her as to how she had told me about a tech from a competing company who when asked if he could sell her a new machine replied, "that's not my job, I don't deal with that" and the negativity she felt towards said response.

Wow... Talk about a lost opportunity to connect with a customer and have a relationship as opposed to another piece of data in your excel sheets. Can you say, epic fail?

Now just this week I signed a deal with a gentleman in CT, who owns his own insurance company. From talking to him and his wife I learned that he rebuilds and races porches, is classically trained on the trumpet, likes cigars and spent ten years or so in his industry before he set out on his own. He also chose to buy a machine from me instead of the other company who had already proposed a contract and leasing plan due to the fact that "I was around". He explained to me that the other salesman simply did not show nearly as much interest in him and his business as I had and did not come around much.

Now I can't say for sure the other guy was indifferent however, I think I won the deal because I showed a genuine interest in the customers story (well, that and I work for an excellent, local company) and really expressed an interest in knowing him and the needs of his staff (some of whom I had also gotten to know through their own stories about how they got involved with the company).

What it all boils down to is that businesses are people. People don't want to be sold to and they never have. They want to connect with other folks and they want to be able to trust the folks they connect with. A sure fire way to build those relationships is to take interest in those peoples stories. Knowing that "Bob" in accounting likes his coffee black and enjoys fishing on the weekends or that "Jess" in IT loves to blog about poetry may be the truly valuable data collected from the next visit to your customers/prospects office.

Get to know your people, get to know their stories.

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