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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rainmaking, confidence and selling.

Glengarry Glen Ross is a classic example of stereotypical selling practices. Do they work? Sure, sometimes, but as Chase points out in his blog, you really succeed when you reach the point when clients start calling you -- or, more accurately, they are so comfortable doing business with you they don't feel they are being sold anything.

Chase, in his blog posting, "You know you are reaching to success when people start calling you" reports on the moment of success for anyone involved in sales and marketing: When you reach the point where clients call you, rather than you them, when you are invited to do business instead of selling yourself (and your soul).

Of course, we all know this is the way things are supposed to work -- You build your business reputation to the extent that word of mouth and repeat business generate most of your clients. The other conventional marketing resources: Advertising, canvassing and cold calling/telemarketing, and response to public bids/opportunities or use of leads services have their place and presumably can top up your numbers (or help you to get started).

This leads to another paradox; if the most effective selling is achieved without pressure, with people calling you rather than you forcing your way into their space, does your business need salespeople or can you get by with some friendly faces and good technical or trade skills?
Here, we discover another irony -- for most successful contracting and AEC professional businesses, "selling" seems inappropriate and most do not hire or contract with people who define themselves as sales reps. But I don't know of any contracting or professional business that survives for long without "rainmakers"; the very special professionally/technically qualified people with a gift for bringing in the business (sales!)

Of course, at the most fundamental levels, company founder/principals handle these selling responsibilities, but when they engage in the business development work personally, it often doesn't seem or feel like "selling" either to themselves or their clients. This is because as business owners (or senior partners) we are thinking from a perspective of confidence and equality with our peers. Also, we can see the entire picture, hopefully, and thus draw connections and links that others may fail to see. This type of "natural selling" is so subtle that it doesn't feel like it is happening -- but it is wonderful to implement in practice.

Perhaps the weakest and saddest sales reps are the ones who see the owners and "decision makers" as mysterious all-powerful forces with some superior status or position, who then proceed to call rotely to "everyone on the list" hoping someone, anyone, will buy! These individuals just don't get it. Rainmakers are confident -- and competent -- in our speciality. We are experts within our knowledge area, and regardless of our trade/profession, we exude this confidence to our business owner counterparts. They sense this confidence, and do business with us as partners/colleagues, not as "clients" or "decision-makers".

For example, the owner of a company that paves driveways may have barely a high school education and look way out of place in a suit and tie, but when he appears at the doorstep of a senior business executive whose driveway needs paving, he, not the executive, is the expert on paving driveways, and he knows it. And if he has done his work well, he will have served or worked with some of the executives peers, who he can reference naturally. He takes the lead within his area of knowledge and the other -- and I use the word "other" deliberately here -- executive understands this, and defers/delegates to him within his area of expertise/responsibility.

There is one other important thing here, which really complicates and challenges the picture. This seamless, seemingly 'unselling' selling requirement for any business needs to be combined with some thoughtful and absolutely non-bureaucratic planning and goal setting. You need to know and be able to project/interpret your results, and set targets and visions for your success. The seemingly spontaneous success, when people call you to order, or seem just to buy without any selling effort, needs an underlying structure and planning process, or you will fly by the seat of your pants and suddenly crash when market conditions change. You need to know why things work, and how to manage the process, if you are to succeed in the long term.

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