I’m a believer that all business is fundamentally about people. I also believe that’s still true in our tech-saturated age. As far as I can tell, many of the hottest online companies are, at their heart, still fundamentally focused on helping us to connect with each other. That’s why I have lived by a simple credo in sales–people first, product second.
Whether it’s folks just starting out in sales, or seasoned veterans who come to me for advice, I’m always humbled for the opportunity to share my perspective and experience. I know that I don’t have all the answers, but I have seen a thing or two over the course of my career that I believe can be helpful.
Almost without exception, I’ve found that most who struggle in sales do just the opposite of what I profess. They place their emphasis on the product that’s represented behind them, rather than on the person who’s standing in front of them. I hope you don’t think of yourself as selling the product or service you represent. Instead, I hope you see selling yourself first. And how do you do that? You make the person in front of you feel important. And when that happens, your product becomes far easier to sell. It’s like they buy you, and what you’re selling comes along with you. Really!
But don’t take my word for it. I encourage you to reflect on your own experiences as a consumer to recognize these truths. You’ve likely had the unfortunate experience of feeling devalued as a human being, of being sold because the focus was exclusively on the product being pitched. You felt like you were a part of an infomercial, where the person talks, and talks, and talks, and then at the last minute, offers you a 2- or 3-for-one deal to entice you into buying. It’s not a very good feeling, is it?
Hopefully not every encounter was like that. When you look back on your most positive consumer experiences, the common denominator was likely that you felt like the person on the other side of the conversation – yes, the sales person – truly cared, and was genuinely interested in you as a person. It’s a great feeling!
What Have I Got To Lose?
I saw this play out firsthand with a young man named Jim Bernard (that’s Jim in the picture). Jim was selling investments for PSW Real Estate, a private homebuilding company that raises their funds through private investors. The company had a good track record on their returns. And being a numbers guy, Jim created an impressive portfolio with graphs, and charts, and data to tell the PSW Investment Story. It was impressive. So impressive, that’s all Jim talked about when he met with these potential investors.
When I inquired as to how that was working, Jim explained he was struggling. “Our story is strong,” he answered. “We’re a sound investment. The numbers prove it. I don’t know why most aren’t willing to sign up with us. I’m frustrated. Will you help me?”
Gladly accepting his invitation, I asked Jim a simple question, “What do you know about them?”
“Well, I know their names. I know they’re investors. And I generally know their company, since many are referred to us by other investors.”
“But what do you know about them…as people?” I continued, offering a series of questions to ponder. “Do you know where they live now? How long that’s been home? Where they were born and raised and how they ended up living here? Do you know about their family? Are they married? What’s their spouse’s name? Do they have children? What are their names and ages? What about pets? If you know what they do for a living, do you know how they chose that profession? Work aside; do you know what they do for fun? What are their hobbies and interests? Do they enjoy traveling? Do you know where they got their education? What’s their degree? And how have they managed their lives and finances so they find themselves in a position to be investing hundreds of thousands to even millions of dollars with your company?
“I don’t,” Jim replied. “Now you’ve got me thinking I should!” After processing this for a moment he continued, “But this could take up much, if not all, of our time during a meal or over happy hour. When do I steer the conversation toward the investment opportunities we offer?”
“Only…and I repeat…only when they bring it up,” I responded.
“Seriously?” Jim asked.
“Seriously!” I answered with a nod.
Nothing Lost – Everything Gained
Jim called me a few weeks later. “You’re not going to believe what’s happening!”
“Try me,” I replied with a smile.
I sat back and listened to story after story, of investor after investor, who on the spot wrote checks for mega bucks, who – get this – never opened Jim’s portfolio and never discussed numbers.
“They trusted me,” Jim stated. “They bought me, and my investment opportunity came with me!”
Jim became a believer in the People Come Before Product philosophy. Will you?
If you care to learn more about PSW, Visit the PSW company profile.
To learn more about investment opportunities through Jim, click on https://www.pswrealestate.com/investor-services. Oh, he’s now their Chief Financial Officer – still a numbers guy – but focused on people first!
To learn more about what I do, consider checking out S.M.I.L.E. It’s all about a “people-first philosophy.” Or, pick up your phone and give me a shout. I’d be happy to help you get into the people business too!