Back in my days working for a bank I had an interesting experience. It was on one of the evenings when I was out in a public cafe I was then working as a commercial banking officer. I had met this gentleman who was focused on putting together the finishing designs to what was to become a technology company with a Pan-African outlook. He didn’t even look like one who could head a company much less one with a Pan-African reach. He had his laptop opened and I saw a few pictures scrolling- they were pictures of a young adult who had just graduated. There was no similarities but then I asked “Sir, is this your son?” Now, this man looked so young I thought he couldn’t have fathered a man that old. But he responded “Yes, he is. Those pictures were taken at his convocation”. “Oh, congratulations, I responded”. Apparently it has been a few years since those pictures were taken. He went on to tell me about the career progress of his son and what he’s doing to give him a better footing than he had starting life. We talked about the switches he’s made in his career. He was an evidently proud father. And then we switched to talking about banking services. Apparently, he wanted to open a collection account for their foreign transactions which he had estimated as being in Millions of dollars. I educated him about his online payment options and the particular difficulty with each while stating which Nigerian financial institution had the capability and/or edge in implementing each. I ended by recommending the bank where I worked with very strong reasons. We said goodbyes and then he disappears.
A few months down the line the man walks into the banking hall where I worked. He wanted to open an account. But by the time he came in he didn’t ask for me, he just requested to speak to ANY commercial sales officer. He didn’t even know I worked with the bank. I recognized him and after a while he did recognize me as the guy who had sparked his interest in the said bank. By himself this man walked in to open a potentially multi-million dollars and a Pan-African deal with a bank on the strength of some light-hearted recommendations by a stranger. How did that happen?
MORAL OF THE STORY:
1. The most effective prospecting happens unplanned when customer is unsuspecting and it doesn’t look like he’s being sold to. Apparently we all do not like the idea of someone selling us THEIR product.
2. The sales man has no “closing” hours. That was an after-work engagement and a major deal was brokered in the most unlikely environment. A thousand cold calls might not have yielded as much result.
3. Follow-up- Many a salesmen will leave others to reap the fruits of their selling efforts for lack of follow-up. Many times, they have done 90% of the selling; opening the window for needs awareness, defining a solution fit and inspiring a buying decision yet they disappear on the day the customer comes to the shop floor. You must be clear on how you can communicate with the customer vice versa during any sales efforts. This slips happen very frequently in unplanned meetings.
4. Start from the prospects interest- We had such an hearty discussion that day about his son and I got to know that young man is his biggest pride. He was so proud of him. Nothing else would have made him give me that much audience. Sales people must always start conversations from the prospect’s prime interest. In a world with ever dwindling attention span that’s the best way to get them to listen.
5. Project knowledge- I educated this man so well on that day he took me for an expert without even knowing my pedigree. Now, this is the number one rule of premium value sales- knowledge! Salesmen MUST be able and ready to educate the prospect on a broad array of issues that are related to the product- not just product knowledge.
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