Over the next couple of weeks I am going to write some articles about selling. These articles are not going to be geared towards sales professionals as they should already be adept at the things I am going to discuss. These articles will be written for the Independent Consultant that has had the gumption to strike it out on his/her own. He/She may have great skill at providing technical solutions for clients, but without the ability to sit down and talk with someone about those solutions they will be back working for someone in no time.
I spoke a bit about this at the EECI conference in Europe and also at the DCEErs conference last month but after the amount of questions I received I felt it warranted expanding a bit. The slides for those talks have been posted to Speaker Deck if you care to look at them. They will be the foundation of this blog series.
If you've looked at those slides (If you haven't go do so now) you may think it odd that I spend over 30% of the slides telling you a bit about me, where I live, my family and what some of my likes are. Truth is that the Bio portion of my slides really only takes about 5-8 minutes depending on the crowd I am speaking to and it serves a purpose.
The number one reason why people buy from you is a personal connection they feel they have that allows them to trust you.
After almost 2 decades spent selling (If you are a independent consultant you are in sales. Embrace it) I have learned that unless there is some bond that the person feels they have with you there will be no reason for them to listen to you. It is this bond that allows them to spend thousands or tens of thousands (or more) of dollars with you.
So the first 30% of my talk was an illustration. It was a way of giving the parents, photographer hobbyists, coffee drinkers and donut eaters a reason to listen to me (I mean, who doesn't like donuts?).
I love this quote by Allan Branch of LessEverything:
The story you tell, the website you design, the copy you add to that website, the way you talk on the phone, the tweets and status updates you send out through social media , etc... will attract a certain type of project and client.
That is some wisdom right there. So does this mean you have to change who you are and pretend to be something you are not? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Be yourself, but be aware that the communication and information that you put out there is directly related to the types of projects and clients you will get. Call it... Communication Karma.
It is very important that as you are getting to know your prospects that you are finding commonalities that you can discuss that go beyond the project at hand. In a classic sense this used to be done over golf, or cigars and scotch, but you don't have to take it that far (unless you are a fan of a good single malt like me). Just listen in for clues. Do they mention a recent vacation? Do they live in an interesting part of the country that you've been to or want to go to? Do they have pictures of themselves with their children going for a bike ride? These are conversation openers... take them.
Just remember... Don't be slimy. This is not a stereotypical used car sales mentality. This is you building a genuine relationship with another human being.
Next up we will talk about Selling vs Consulting...