What Method Do You Lead With?

Have you ever read a sales book? How many have you read? I've read my share, well over 50, and I enjoy hearing how different people approach the opportunity before them and make the move to closing business or moving on to the next one.

Over the last few months I've been asked to speak more and more about the best sales methods. (Funny, when economies slow down people start looking at what's not working--they should be doing that when it's working too!) My short answer is that there is no "best" method. The one that works for you may not work for someone else. The one that works for your competition may not work for you. And so on.

In my analysis of different selling methods I have identified three drastically different approaches that can develop a different customer relationship and return based on not only the general efforts made, but also the specific activities you choose to do (or don't do as you'll see).
The three approaches or methods one could lead with are as follows:

  1. Wait: If you use the wait approach to new business...and existing business too, you literally are waiting for business to show up. You may spend your time preparing for the work you will get or maybe you are busy working on work you already have. There's not much effort in this method...but there is often time hoping for more work, praying for more work, or spending time complaining that no work is coming in. Last time I checked there are very few investments where some amount of up front work, effort, or capital is required before you can enjoy any return at all.
  2. Look: I believe this method is not only the most popular, but it has also worked for many up to this point. You know your core product or service you offer and you spend time going out and looking for companies who need what you have. This approach often leads to asking the question, "Do you want to buy what I'm selling." Some people are incredible at this method. The number of calls they make in a day, people they see, e-mails they send are all part of their ROI factor of "looking." People who use this method would try to find people who need what is being sold. And when people are buying this is a great method. Not so good when people aren't buying.
  3. Create: This is often the least used method to lead with. But as of late, the few who do use it, are enjoying deeper and more valuable relationships with particular customers. This method can deepen an already existing relationship or it can help you get the attention of someone you've never done business with. In this method you spend time thinking creatively about ways to help their business. Perhaps it's helping them make money, save money, save time or look good to a new type of customer. The difference is that you're not saying, "do you want to buy what I'm selling," you're leading with a thought out set of ideas you created to help that customer's business. It may take more time to understand the customer's business or their relationships with their customers but it's an easy way for me to differentiate myself by putting your business in the middle and me showing you how to grow and go further enabled by my ideas. It sets me apart from my competition AND the potential to have a long-term relationship is not based on price, quality or turn around time only. Individuals who lead with this method may not win all the business and it may take more time, but the practice in developing the ideas and selling them to others makes for a more knowledgeable and creative salesperson. I consider this a business development mindset.

What method do you lead with? What do you think of the three I listed here? Drop me a line and let me know?

Keep the learning going, pass it on! ~Peter