I once had a prospective customer call me up and demand a sales pitch. He said “Sell me what you’ve got”. I was caught off guard. I’m used to people calling to ask me questions, not calling to demand I sell them something.
I said, uh, well, have you looked through the website? Yes. Did you have any questions? Then he got really mad and said “What, do you not even want me to buy your product then!?!” I stumbled around and said uh…it’s your choice right? I mean, if it’s what you are looking for, I’d be delighted if you signed up. If not, I wish you well in finding what you are looking for. I’ll even give you a recommendation if I can. I’m here to help you understand if it’s a good fit, not to convince you that it is.
He was really not happy with that answer. He seemed to want a more aggressive sales pitch than I even know how to do, let alone feel comfortable with.
I ended up asking him about his project (when in doubt, ask questions!), and talked about how our service fit in with what he was doing. I thought all in all that I recovered OK.
Then he posted a ticket to our helpdesk saying that whoever the ditz on the phone was, she should be fired. I think he might have used the word “mealy-mouthed”. Sigh.
The last thing you want to do is convince your worst customer to hire you.
This is not the kind of customer I want anyway. And before you say “sour grapes!”, let me explain. I have paid attention to which customers end up being the most demanding, and often they were the most demanding prospective customers as well. So I don’t mind if people are unsatisfied with my sales technique or something else I offer and go somewhere else. Chances are they’d be unsatisfied with a lot of other things too. In the long run, I want happy customers more than I want any particular sale.
The best customers are those that find your stuff and say “Aaah, now this is what I was looking for”. They don’t need to be “sold”. They just need to be able to clearly see who you are. That way, they’ll know that who you are is what they want.
Marketing is about clear communication.
I’ve heard people say, in the “you don’t have to be aggressive” crowd, that “marketing is about relationships”. Sure, OK. But I also think it is about clarity of message and resonance. When you form those relationships, in whatever form, even “website visitor”, those people need to be able to understand who you actually are! That’s the only way the will get that “Aaah” feeling of “this is a good fit”.
Sometimes it seems like traditional sales techniques are predicated on the idea that folks are just wandering around not sure what they want. So they need to be told to buy your product.
Is that really true? In today’s consumer society with a billion choices, it seems to me like people are out there hunting for what they really want. I certainly am. And I might not have a name or specific picture in my head of what it is, but when I find it, I know. Because of – you guessed it – that “Aaah” feeling. I get excited inside, and I want to tell people about it. And those are the kinds of customers you want!
The way to get those customers is for your marketing to be a shining beacon of Who You Are. Whatever the medium – website, how you interact with folks at networking events – it can communicate clearly your unique style and what you bring to your service.
You also want your marketing to be honest, so people get exactly what you said they would – exactly what they wanted. That’s the best way to get and keep more happy customers.
We’re always better at being who we are than being somebody else.
I don’t do sales pitches or aggressive marketing. And, I have no problem paying my rent. Perhaps I could be making more money if I used different techniques – but who knows? Maybe I’d suck at them because they aren’t really me. Yeah, that sounds true.
So if you need some evidence that making a living does not require aggression, I’ll be the poster child. And I think there are a lot of folks out there like me. I believe authenticity creates success more than sales techniques do. The most important thing is doing what you feel comfortable with and believe in.
There are lots of ways to market. Explore the options and learn about different techniques to see which ones fit you. Keep the faith that you’ll find the ones that are right for you AND that work to create the income you’d like to have.
Lastly, when you develop your perfect-for-you non-aggressive way of marketing and doing business, tell people about it! I write about my business philosophy on my “about” pages, and a lot of the folks who find me say that reading that resonated with them. I think it’s important, if you are committed to non-violent marketing, to let people know. It’s one more thing that will attract the right people to you.
PS I was inspired to write this article after stumbling upon Havi Brooks’ take on the subject, Kosher marketing — it’s not what you think. You might want to check that article out too.