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Friday, February 06, 2009

Serving (and giving) works much better than selling

Mel Lester, in his E-Quip Blog posting "Why that dog don't hunt" makes an important point:

The secret is to stop selling and start serving. Sounds simple, but it's not. It involves a heart transplant, where you begin to care more about the client's needs than your own. It's not easy, but it sure is satisfying. Now your want to has caught up with the need to.

How can you promote such a change in your firm? Keep in mind that most A/E firms are probably not equipped to make such a nuanced transition. So if yours can pull it off, you'll be in rare company. Isn't that what differentiation is all about?
Lester's point is fundamental to effective marketing but many people trapped in the sales mentality get it only half right. They give -- but expect something in return. When they don't receive a payoff or a positive response to their sales pitch, they disappear into the wilderness, looking for another 'prospect' to 'sell'.

Generosity and service requires an entirely different mind set. You put your commercial self interest totally out of mind, and focus instead on sharing and helping people around you.

Of course, you select your environment where you express your generosity but you don't want to box this in too narrowly. My business (since it sells marketing and advertising services) focuses on generosity within the community of relevant trade associations and groups. Your universe will be different, depending on your market. Your current and former clients, of course, should always receive top priority -- after they have done business with you once, no effort should be spared to make them feel respected, connected, and able to call on you for guidance, advice, and follow-up support.

Will some (perhaps most) of the people you help and serve just take the free stuff and provide nothing in return? Sure, and that is okay. You'll find some give you far more in return than you can imagine -- they'll call you, make large orders, refer friends, and spread the good word about your business. Note you do not need to spend large amounts of money for your generosity: You can provide your time, your ideas and observations, and in some cases, can contribute in-kind support which has high value to your market but costs you little if anything in cash dollars.

In addition to the rather exciting business results you achieve through your generosity and service, you'll discover something else -- your marketing process becomes enjoyable, rather than something to fear. If your whole attitude is "How can I really be of service?" than "How much do they need to purchase so I can meet my profit quota?" you can wake up each day and enjoy success, even before the phone rings or E-mail pings with the (seemingly) unsolicited business from clients who really want to do business with you, and are ready to pay for your services.

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