My agile, fit, 71-year-old mother came over this week after cleaning her gutters. They were pulling away from the house so she climbed on a ladder and in the 90 degree Memphis summer heat, cleaned the debris and gunk out of her gutters. The rub came later when she was in the house and tidying up and came across the card from her lawn “guy” and flipped it over and there it mentioned he also cleans gutters.
“I would have MUCH rather have paid him to do it than do it myself!”
I would rather she paid someone else to do that as well! So, I asked her if he ever told her he also cleaned gutters. “I don’t remember him mentioning it but he might have when he first met me.”
This was a missed opportunity for the lawn and gutter guy.
This reminded me of a missed opportunity when I was selling print services and the really big, fat, important lesson I learned that helped me increase revenue within existing accounts:
No one will remember everything you tell them you do unless you show them how it solves a current or future problem.
I made the same mistake as the lawn and gutter guy many times.
Selling print services, there really wasn’t anything we couldn’t do for clients. Digital print, online print catalog and distribution, large scale offset printer jobs, posters, banners, logo and printed merchandise … We had brochures, PowerPoints, and laminated posters that we passed along to clients in addition to our detailed explanation of our services in person.
Which was why I was shocked and stupefied when I walked into my client’s office one day – maybe the 6th or 7th time I’d been in their office with them after successfully printing several training projects for them – and was stunned to find 30 or so boxes full of beautiful, color printed catalogs. “Um, we could have printed those for you” was the only thing I could utter in my shock. At least, I would have loved to had the opportunity to source and price them for our client but I wasn’t aware of her need.
“Oh, I didn’t realize you could do that” – the phrase that stings EVERY salesperson.
She didn’t realize I could handle the catalog print? I told her we could do those things. I covered all our capabilities, didn’t I?!?
Ouch. I wanted to throw up, right there in her trash can next to all those boxes of missed revenue. Thousands and thousands of dollars that could have gone towards my quota and compensation plan just passed me by.
Here’s what I learned through that painful lesson: No one cares about everything you do. They only care about their problems and how you can solve them.
If you don’t define your solutions in terms of a client’s current or future problems, they won’t connect with that solution as a value and they certainly won’t remember it.
With the client and print catalogs …
- I didn’t know about her catalog print project because I wasn’t asking enough questions.
- She didn’t remember my print capabilities because I didn’t connect my capabilities to tangible examples in her world.
Or the lawn and gutter business …
- The lawn and gutters guy didn’t ask about my mom’s gutters. “Have you had your gutters cleaned recently?” or “Can I climb up there and take a pic of your gutter conditions for you?”
- Either of those questions – whether she needed her gutters cleaned then or not – would have helped her recall that he could solve her gutter issues.
The key to being able to demonstrate the value of our capabilities now and in the future is to ask more questions:
- Tell me about the current projects you’re tackling?
- What are some of the past projects you’ve handled?
- What have been some pain points when tackling XYZ?
- What other divisions or departments do you work closely with (can you introduce me)?
- Tell me about some technology/process/systems transitions or upgrades that could be in the near future.
- What sort of resources and training is being considered for the next 3 – 6 months?
We need to ask questions so we can engage our customers in connecting their work, their challenges, their goals … to our capabilities, our solutions, our ability to solve their problems, our value as a resource and partner.
Our customers don’t sit around and think, “Hmmm, how can I do more business with Shawn and help expand her reach on our organization?” (Well, actually a few have done that for me but it’s not the norm!)
Our customers are thinking about their business, their goals, their challenges, their projects, their future.
Our job is to continue to work on behalf of our clients – it’s not altruistic – but it serves them best by asking them questions that bridge our relevance to their needs.
Don’t miss out on opportunities and kick yourself because your customer has put you in a “one capability” box. Brochures and talking about your capabilities aren’t going to cut it, you’ve got to continue to show up and ask great questions to expand your role, your services, and your reach in existing accounts.
Until next time, stop hoping and start SELLING!