I read recently that George Forman the former World Heavyweight Champion said that if he could give his children one gift it would be the ability to sell! With the ability to sell, he felt they would be well equipped to succeed in life. If your future is affected by the downturn in the oil industry, then I’d suggest that there’s no better time to think about the customer, selling and what they mean to your business or your future as an individual.
Where to start: Keeping your customers
In sales and marketing time is of the essence! Tomorrow’s results start today! It’s almost certain that there is a customer or a job out there where what you can do would be of value. But if you don’t get a move on and start spreading the word – it’s unlikely they are going to come knocking on your door and beg for your assistance. Of course, in today’s world we are blessed with the internet – so if you have at least made the effort to get some information out there, then there is indeed a chance that they can find you. For businesses that starts with your website. And individuals can have websites too of course. As a business it’s your number one sales and marketing tool: so it has to look great and it’s got to tell the world what you can do. Make sure you are making the most of it… As an individual the equivalent tool is your CV – make sure it says what it needs to say and spend time making it look good.
But that is only one part of the equation. Customers want pro-active, can-do companies with get-up-and-go to provide them with the services they need. Adopting this profile will get you better results. Spend some time thinking about your own business plan. Start with the customers you’ve already got. Identify customers you would like to have: Do you know who they are already? Do you at least know what you want them to look like? And once you’ve identified them what is it that you can do to help them? If this just isn’t something you like doing, or you recognise you need some help then seek the advice and support of a professional. You’ll get quicker and better results.
It’s hard to believe that there are customers out there when times are tough. But if you have a way of adding value to somebody else’s business then there is always a way. Service is about adding value; but sometimes that gets forgotten. Think about how you can add value and where you can add it and make a plan to make it happen.
It’s been done before: Convince your customers of your value.
I came across an amazing example of how the ability to add value to someone can transform even the bleakest circumstances. In 1616 Sir Walter Raleigh, recently voted one of the greatest 100 Britons, was locked up in the Tower of London. He’d been there for thirteen long years: tried and convicted of treason against James I (VI). Treason was normally fatal, but the King had decided not to execute him. And in 1616 Raleigh, always an adventurer and privateer, managed to find a way to petition the King to let him lead an expedition to find El Dorado, the city of gold thought to be in Venezuela. Having previously searched for El Dorado, and having the necessary CV to pull it off, James agreed. It’s hard to imagine a King allowing someone accused of treason on any mission. But the thought of vast riches persuaded James to free a traitor and trust him with a mission. Raleigh was free and back in business; a remarkable lesson in salesmanship and overcoming the darkest odds.
So what happened to Raleigh you are wondering. Well, his buccaneering nature got the better of him. Maybe you can’t escape your nature. A key condition of his release had been that he should tread carefully and attempt to avoid conflict with Spain – one must imagine that he needed to weigh the risks with the prize. The expedition failed to locate its target; instead hungry for plunder Raleigh and his men raided a Spanish possession securing only a small amount of gold and silver. Upon his return, to appease Spanish ire, Raleigh was arrested at Plymouth and taken to London to be executed. Despite being presented with several opportunities to escape he refused and went bravely to his death in London.
Final thought: Positive Thinking
So the moral of the tale is any sale is possible if you can find the right key to unlock the door: if you can find the right value proposition. So wherever you are it’s extremely unlikely that you are in as difficult a situation as Raleigh faced. Get marketing, get selling – but think carefully about how you deliver once you get there. Of course, service delivery is a marketing topic for another day.