Are business stories really that much funnier after a few beers? Hotel lobbies, happy hours, and networking events are bustling with alcohol-induced anecdotes and not-so-subtle sales pitches. Sales veterans stereotypically cracking jokes provide a quick snapshot of how successful selling occurs. Unfortunately, this is a photoshopped image. Sales success is a process! Hysterical anecdotes during a conference’s after-hours mixer, a professional development event, or the local niche group’s rooftop party do not create enduring value. The home office and the sales professional’s career demand results. So, where are the results if not following a few laughs and a few more drinks?
Closing deals is important to business growth. Creating enduring value is essential for growing a business, and consequently a long, effective business development career. Service links business growth and enduring value. Communicating your product, intangible good, or solution for the explicit benefit of the customer is the goal. Sharing a drink or two is not necessarily bad. But, using that valuable time to create trust and demonstrate the critical benefit of service effectively leads to securing new clients. You are there to help!
The best way to demonstrate service is to demonstrate service. At the next corporate happy hour, identify your prospect and serve them. Save the discussion on your product’s superiority for business hours. The evening meeting focuses on building rapport and establishing trust. Make an introduction for a prospect who wants to meet someone for selfish gain. As the conversation dies down, accept an assignment that creates a reason to reconnect. To super-size results, make it a personal favor. If Ms. Buyer is in the market for a new personal trainer, take that action item and deliver a phenomenal recommendation in the next 48 hours. Let the service experience be part of the prospects storytelling.
Fundamentally, great communication returns to listening. Effective networking relies less on being right, it focuses on communicating effectively. Listening is more important than talking. Usually, the talkers dominate. Too many “listeners” are really “talkers” waiting their turn. Consequently, true listeners have a huge advantage because they are scarce. In securing the targets’ trust and confidence, encourage them to talk. They will remember you and the conversation more positively. Furthermore, they will be more receptive to hearing from you in the future.
Great questions are key. Volley the conversation back to the prospect. Ask them to elaborate on the point that they just made. Request a clarification on the source of the wisdom they just shared. A great sales professional is not trying to win arguments. She wants to establish a conversation, that leads to revealing a problem, that she can solve. Rehearse open ended questions that involve business matters in the local community or the specific industry. Let prospects demonstrate their expertise, then subtly guide them to share their challenges. Align their challenges with your solutions.
Effective networking is no longer the guy who can drink the most martinis before pouring himself into an Uber. It is now the person who grabs the prospect’s favorite coffee while continuing the conversation. Business is done with clarity and a service mindset. Every conversation does not close with a deal. Sales success is a process. The process requires many conversations so that more opportunities emerge. Opportunities surface by effective listening specifically to align articulated desires with your solutions. More conversations result in more follow-up meetings, resulting in more problems to solve, resulting in more sales, resulting in more satisfied customers, and more referrals, and more…
By Glenn W Hunter
Principal of Hunter And Beyond