Who’s driving the car, you or your clients?
The story goes like this, you and your client are in the car driving the road of sales and you’re so excited just to be in the car and on the road that you forgot to see just exactly who is driving the car. By the time you realize it isn’t you – it’s too late! You’ve become the dog with its head out the window, ears floppin’ in the wind and tongue hangin’ out of your mouth Why? Because you’re just too happy to just be in the car!
How many of you feel like the dog? Well, I say, it’s high time we elevate our service and start driving the car! It’s time we took control of our business after all, who knows our business best, our prospective clients or us?
Everything starts at the beginning.
FIRST: Take control of yourself.
What’s your plan? Where do you want to go? How are you going to get there? Do you have your plan in writing and just because it’s in your head doesn’t count – write it down!
The appointments you have scheduled this week and next, do you know your objective? How are you going to get to your objective? What’s your strategy? What questions will you ask?
SECOND: Take control of your clients.
It starts with how you qualify an account if you decide to pursue their business or not. That’s right, not all business is good business. This is what gets you into trouble to begin with, selecting the client that will get in the car with you, you know, the one who wants to drive the car.
Here’s an analogy for you: Let’s say you’re not feeling well and haven’t for some time. You finally decide to go to the doctor. When you finally get in to see him, he talks about the weather asks about your family, etc. Then he just kind of sits there looking at you. So, what do you do? You start telling him your ailments and in the process – you self diagnose. You’re telling him what’s wrong with you and what tests to run and what prescriptions to write. Why did you do this? Because there was a pause, he quit talking and just looked at you like, okay, it’s your turn to talk.
How comfortable would you feel going to a doctor that allows you to do this? Who’s the professional? Who’s got the expertise, experience and degree in medicine? I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor they are in complete control. They tell me when to be there, what to fill out, they make me wait and wait and wait, they tell me what tests they’re going to run and then tell me exactly what’s wrong with me. The only time I get to talk is to answer the questions the doctor asks me prior to diagnosing what’s wrong with me. However, I trust them and I trust them because I recognize that they are more qualified than I am.
Why aren’t we operating this way? Aren’t we supposed to be the experts in our industry? Are we not supposed to uncover problems and provide “solutions”?
Taking control starts on that first appointment. How you set the stage (and it’s up to you) will determine the course of the relationship. You set the stage by stating your purpose, the process (by asking questions) and the payoff (the benefit to the client). I call it the “Tommy-tooth” approach. It is such a simple step yet, if it’s not done and all you do is sit down then guess who starts talking first? The client. I am not suggesting that you do all the talking – just set the stage and ask the questions. By asking the right questions you are controlling the direction of the conversation. Now you’re going where YOU want to go! You’re driving the car – YEA!
Let’s talk about those questions. What kind of questions do you ask on that first appointment? Well, you’re not going to ask “job order” related questions like; so do you have a microwave, what are the working hours, how long is the lunch break, or any other question that has nothing to do with uncovering a “pain”. How can you uncover a problem and provide a solution with the answers you get to these kinds of questions? You can’t!
I always asked questions in three categories; questions about the decision maker, questions about their company and questions about their usage (of your product or service).
Sales is a process and as the sales person it’s up to you to guide everyone through that process. The moment you let the client start dictating to you how they want things done it’s over. You might as well give them your pricing and hope you’re the cheapest! If that’s the way you want to play. Is it? Because, I dare to say to you that if all you’re doing is taking the direction of the client and handing out rates … well… why would a company need sales people? (WHOA-that hurt!)
If you can’t get the information you need from your clients, the way you need it – don’t throw out pricing. True partnerships require equal sharing of information. How can you provide service much less price your service without knowing the facts, the problems or opportunities to make a difference? It’s like saying; “we have the greatest service package for you and oh, by the way, what did you say your company does?”
THIRD: Take control of your margins.
I can’t think of any industry in the United States where as a customer I can walk in and ask, “Now, what’s your mark-up”? And then, turn around and tell them I don’t like their mark-up and that I want it to be “X” and oh yea, I want you to purchase your inventory for “X”. Sound crazy? Well, we let this happen to us every day.
I wonder if your clients allow their customers to tell them how to price their widgets or whatever it is they sell and then suggest that they pay their staff less?
If your margins are eroding it’s because you’ve allowed it to happen. You’ve let the client drive the car. You’ve let them tell you how to do your business. You’ve let them put you on a spreadsheet with all the other “happy dogs” and in order to stay in the car you’ve lowered your rates. This is not selling.