After many decades of being a business owner and salesman, I have never, ever changed my Golden Rule of Selling: Know Your Customer.
Customers are the reason we open our doors every day and keep the machines humming all night long. Customers determine what we eat, where we live, whether we stay in business. We can keep our factories and offices going until we run out of money, but unless we have customers to sell to, we have no purpose.
Economic times like we're experiencing right now challenge those selling even the most essential products. That's why knowing your customer positions you to retain business that may otherwise be subject to underbidding. A customer could decide that your product may no longer be necessary.
Anyone can research information on a company. A Google search usually produces more facts than you'll actually need. But the company isn't your real customer. There's a person in that company who makes decisions about how it will spend money, and whom will get its business. That's your customer.
I've written many times about the Mackay 66, a 66-question customer profile that I developed as a young salesman. It includes absolutely no information about the envelopes companies buy, but focuses on the people who do the buying. What are they like as human beings? What are they proud of accomplishing? What's their life like outside the office? In other words, what makes them tick?
Then, we guard this information with our lives, being very sensitive to how we use it and who has access. This is not office gossip. (You can access the Mackay 66 at my website, www.harvey mackay.com.)
"Whenever you are faced with tough times, it's time to get busy," writes Tom Hopkins in his book "Selling in Tough Times." The subtitle, "Secrets to Selling When No One is Buying," should grab the attention of any salesperson who has experienced a sales slump. But make no mistake, this book is not just for tough times - the advice applies to every sales presentation you'll ever make.
While there is a goldmine of selling wisdom in every chapter, I was particularly interested in Chapter 5: "Start by Keeping the Business You Already Have." Hopkins says, "If you have provided an exceptional level of service to your clients, there's a wonderful side benefit. During tough times you will likely be lower on their list of services to reduce or eliminate than another company that hasn't provided your level of extraordinary service."
Hopkins' final bit of advice is critically important. "During challenging times, it's more important than ever to dedicate yourself to training, practicing and improving everything you do," he writes.
In short, you have to ignite your own passion.
Mackay's Moral: Tough times come and go, but great salespeople just keep going.
by Harvey Mackay - Nov. 29, 2010 12:00 AM
Mackay: Know your customer to stay ahead
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