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Monday, January 12, 2009

Buying and selling

Consider two superficially equal situations. In one case someone in authority calls you and says: "I would like you to do some work for us." You get the job, do your work to the highest standards, and receive repeat business, year after year. Your client is buying.

In the second situation, you approach someone and say: "I can do this job for you." You are selling. You conduct yourself with the highest level of integrity, deliver exactly what you promise (and even more) and certainly are providing essentially the same service as in the first, buying, example.

Is your account secure? No, because no matter how hard you try to deliver the service in the right way, the relationship is defined by the fact that you sold it, and not that someone decided to call you in the first place. Sometimes obvious -- often unseen -- forces are tearing away at the relationship; perhaps 'buyers remorse' but perhaps, more significantly, your clients don't see the same level of value when they sense they've been sold something, rather than when they decide to call you and buy.

The question then is, should you give up on selling? Well, if your phone isn't ringing, if your current and previous clients aren't buying anything you have to sell, then you have a choice: Close up your business voluntarily, or go bankrupt.

Then, can you get potential clients to want to to buy? Obviously, you need to do good work, but can you (without selling too hard) encourage people to call you, to refer business, to try new things when you've done business in the past? The answer, thankfully, is 'yes', and that is where really good marketing enters the picture.

If you build your reputation -- your brand -- to a high enough level, you will receive the 'buy' calls -- you can then deliver the results your clients are seeking, and you will win more referral and relationship-based business.

The big challenge here is that most construction-related businesses, in hard times like we are enduring, have trouble finding enough people to buy -- and so are tempted to go out and sell. Yo may rush to bid jobs outside your scope of knowledge and relationships, you may pester people hoping for a nibble, you may chase at straws, or (worse) you may start knocking on doors, hoping someone -- anyone -- will answer and say 'yes.'.

Or people from marketing companies might call you and try to sell you stuff. You say, no, but then, some break through the resistance and you buy, but you ultimately are often unhappy -- the same way people seem to be unhappy when you go out and sell your services.

Solution: Think marketing -- smart marketing. Think creative, innovative approaches to create enough value and good-will that the right people will sense you know your stuff, that you will deliver on your promises, and you will honour your commitments. Then you don't have to sell anything to encourage people to buy.

2 comments:

josh said...

Mark

I love it. I had a discussion with a buddy of mine in sales the other day. He gets 90% of his leads from cold calling and keeps getting mad when they still put his job out to bid. He can't ever get them to be 100% loyal and i believe it is beacuse he always approaches them.

Thanks for the posts.

Mark Buckshon said...

The paradox is when you have a 'buying' relationship, your clients will still put projects out to bid. Trouble is (for the other bidders), they know in advance who will get the job. This happens most of the time. I'm still smiling about a current project where our business had the good fortune (earned, of course by our work and relationships) to be on the inside of a bidding opportunity -- the buyer made it quite clear before anything went public who he wanted to do the job. And then I called people I knew who could help in the project (they were my 'buyers'). We are delivering the project successfully, but didn't sell anything.