About nine years ago, I was fortunate enough to have worked along side a brilliant young sales guy at Learfield Communications (and for the life of me I can’t remember his name, Chuck something?). He was constantly looking for companies in his territory that he could truly help with the power of his network. That seemed to be his primary focus and he was wildly successful. I stalked him quite a bit, and learned a lot from him along the way.
Here’s one example of his strategy in action…
I was in his office and he was trolling the Iowa news wires. He was reading a story about a local power company that was dealing with wide-spread outages after a massive storm and the community was getting pissed. A light bulb went off in his head: “You know what, Ben? I’ll bet this power company is going to have some serious image problems after this is all said and done. I think I can help their PR campaign.” He immediately got on the the phone with their PR gal and offered a solution to her problem. I listened to his conversation intently. The words “sales” or “money” never even left his mouth. He focused on engaging the potential client and offering her a solution to a specific problem. Brilliant. He got the account on the spot. The cool thing about this guy? He was very genuine. Not a sleazy sales bone in his body.
I’ll bet that if your local sales staff shifted their underlying focus from “selling” to “problem solving” you would start to see some serious gains. At the end of the day, that’s what your potential clients are all looking for, right?
[Update: I was chatting the other day with respected radio consultant Ed Shane about this upcoming blog post. While he agrees with the concept, he brings up a solid point: local sales folks –in today’s current economic climate– just don’t have the time to develop the kind of solid relationship they once had with individual clients. It’s all about what you sold today. Is there something we can do about this? Thanks for making that point Ed.]