One of the reasons some of us struggle in sales is that we approach the prospect with the expectation of receiving something from them (the sale) without actually having delivered value first. Now, we can split hairs and say that the sale has to close in order for us to get the chance to deliver, and while that’s true if we’re only thinking in terms of what our product or service can provide for the prospect, the truth is that we have te ability to give value before the sales process even begins.
First we have to understand what value even means. A lot of times we think it’s just something we’re adding on to a product or service. That’s a promotion, not value. Value is something which favors the customer. How then do we deliver a definite value before we’ve sold anything? The most obvious way is to be valuable. Never go into a sales call looking for an opportunity. Be the opportunity. Before you even engage the prospect, make sure you have some knowledge of what challenges and needs they’re facing, even outside of the immediate purview of what you have to offer directly.
One way to do this is to come armed with knowledge that is useful to your prospect. Better yet, become a source of knowledge and insight. Whether through articles, my email newsletter, or Twitter, I deliver useful (and therefore valuable) information and insight, without any expectation. Rather than giving to get, I give to give. When on sales calls, I try to provide at least one bit of insight or information that will be helpful to the prospect’s business goals, before I present any opportunity to do business. Thus, instead of just putting myself in front of people who can say ‘yes’ to me, I put myself in front of them and deliver value before I do anything else.
Some will appreciate you, some won’t. Either way, you will have differentiated yourself from most salespeople out there, and as you continue to try to find ways to be more helpful to your clients and prospects, you will become more valuable. The inevitable result of this is that you don’t just look like an authority in your field, you become an authority, and prospects will begin to seek you out, or they may even give you referrals even before they’ve ever done business with you, simply because your extensive knowledge, keen insights, genuine effort to help them, and your sincere desire to see them succeed takes you from being just another salesman to being a credible resource.
I haven’t asked for a referral in more than a decade. Find out why in How to get referrals more easily.