Listen to What You Aren’t Being Told
There are a lot of hustlers out there in our business. You know these men and women, maybe you are one, always selling themselves and their skills, pounding the pavement, jonesing for the next job. And I am never going to say that hustling is bad. Hell, we’ve all gone out of our way to make our work the best and we want to clean every window, sidewalk, house, and roof East of the Mississippi. Or West of the Mississippi if I just walk over the bridge here in the Twin Cities.
The hustler goes out and gets work. “Hi, I’m Wilbur the Window Washer, and I’d love to clean your glass!” Up and down the street, to everyone they meet, even in the restaurant when they take their spouse out for dinner, “Hey I’d like to talk to the manager about how dirty your windows are!” It’s bound to succeed.
The biggest problem with the hustler is that they are so busy promoting themselves that they often miss the obvious fact: their potential customer is a real person and has their own story going on and there’s no way to connect with that person if he’s only talking about himself. Sometimes just taking a long breath and paying attention will get far more results.
What is your customer wearing? That’s important to them. How someone dresses tells you how they prepare for their day. Office dress, casual, workout, or even working clothes like we wear will give you insight in what they expected to do today. Noticing even off handedly will make an impression that will stick in their mind. “Oh, are you a runner?” “I have work boots just like those.” “I see by your suit that you’re going to the office, I won’t delay you.”
And then there’s the house. We’re in an excellent position, those of us who do residential work, to see our customers as they see themselves, at home. We get to see their art, their hanging photos, their bookshelves, and their hobbies. I once noticed in passing that I was jealous of my client’s woodworking shop. That turned into a two hour conversation while I worked and subsequently that couple has been lifelong clients and now we do most of the homes on their street. Just that simple connection which wasn’t me talking about my work, but instead about a hobby.
So many times I’ve said, “Oh, I read that book. I really liked it.”Books are a pathway into a client’s passions. I even have a client, a thoracic surgeon, who reads for an hour before going into the operating room, and he calls me every few months to ask what I’m reading and what I recommend. Again, we’ve been doing work for him, his family, and his neighbors for many years.
“I am amazed at your garden. This looks nicer than houses we do who have professional gardeners.” All of a sudden the client is excited about talking with you.
And let me tell you the biggest secret of sales: It’s far easier to sell to someone if they’re already a customer. If they’re already paying you to do one thing and they’re happy, just having you take care of more of their work is easier on them. Who doesn’t like it when things are easy?
So become interested in what your clients are telling you through their hobbies and their pets and ask about their kids or their new car. Don’t even bother closing the sale, just become interested.I have a place in my notes where I record the names of their dogs and their kids so I can refresh before the next time I head over to their home.You can mention that you’d love to clean the windows at their neighbor’s house. You can see it from their backyard and it is a beautiful home. Next year, that neighbor will be calling you, I guarantee it.
I had a client once who was at home during his cancer treatments. I told him that his collection of Scotch bottles was amazing and we got to talking about this and that. Next time I went over he talked to me about my business and how it was structured. Turns out he was a lawyer specializing in estate planning and small businesses. Well this went on for a few years and we chatted about hunting, he had some of the most amazing Springer Spaniels. We talked about our kids. We talked about how my business was growing and what services we offer. He asked about my insurance and whatnot. I think he enjoyed our twice a year visits as much as I did.
John lost his battle with cancer and passed away. That Spring I told his widow that this time was free over her objections. When I got there we had a good talk and a bit of a cry and she brought me a banker box, you know the cardboard kind that you pop together to hold your tax documents.In it was a complete estate plan for me. It detailed my business and assets and put it all together with a will. John had been making notes and he left me with such a gift. Also there was a bottle of some of the finest Scotch I’ve ever owned and a handwritten note. It was hard to get through that job because my eyes kept clouding up.
But beyond that, I got a call from John’s business partner that year to come do work at their building. And soon we were doing the whole office park.
There is no substitute in sales for just being yourself and having people genuinely like you. It all starts from taking an interest in them. Listen carefully to what you aren’t being told.
I’m here if you have questions.
- Rick Wren