I was 25 and the VP of Sales for Squidoo, the 60th largest website in the U.S. Three months into my gig there, it occurred to me that I was trying too hard (and yes, there is such a thing).
You see, we were positioning ourselves as thought leaders in the digital marketing space, the company at the top of the food chain.
But there I was, trying to sell anything I could to anyone I could find. As well-intentioned as those efforts might have been, my initial strategy was not only ineffective, it was damaging to the long-term vision of what we were creating.
The funny thing is that, deep down, I knew my approach was off. It never really felt right. But my own fear of failure and insistence on bringing in the big bucks led me to push too hard, too quick.
After a little over a year at Squidoo, I soon realized a better way to sell—one that didn’t include cold calling, long sales letters, or stiff corporate suits.
And guess what? It was infinitely more effective.
Here’s what I did—and how you can do it, too.
1. Skip the Line and Stop Cold Calling
Cold calling big Fortune 500 companies and expecting to close a deal is like expecting to meet your spouse at a strip club. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? No.
In my experience, it’s much smarter to spend your efforts building real relationships and creating a name for yourself among respected groups in your industry. Once you’ve established some strong relationships, ask for introductions to potential clients from trusted community members. You’ll have a far, far higher return than a truly cold outreach campaign.
So, how do you do it?
Building relationships is first and foremost about caring about other people. It starts with you being willing to give from your heart. The common belief that we need to be tough and stoic in sales is outdated—today, it’s about being a real human being.
Here are a few things that have worked for me:
Be Real, Even if You’re the Only One
At industry-related events, everyone likes to stand around with drink in hand “acting smart.” Be willing to shake things up by being real and telling the truth. People will trust you more.
Make People Laugh and Do Things Just for the Sheer Enjoyment of It
Go to a Broadway musical, a Knicks game, or the spa with a client or send him tickets as a gift. Consider inviting your potential customer to an event you’re speaking at. Do it because it’s fun, and don’t worry about the immediate return. In my experience, any generosity you put out there comes back to you in spades.
Introduce Compelling People to One Another
Be willing to take the time to connect interesting people. Helping others do business means more business for you, too.
Send Handwritten Cards to Past and Future Customers
Warren Buffet himself is known to personally respond to handwritten letters. Not bad!
Gift Your Product to Friends and Family of People You Like
Call up your current contacts and ask them if they want to gift anybody one of your products. You’ll ship it, and it will be a gift from your friend to their friend.
2. Make Happiness and Pleasure a Non-Negotiable
Invest in yourself first what you hope others will invest in you later.
I spent most of my life thinking that fun and satisfaction were something that came only from hard work and drudgery.
It was in this past year that I realized I had it all wrong. By thinking certain activities were obligatory (e.g., daily cold calling), I created a high-stress environment that didn’t allow me room to breathe or space to see and feel my way into situations. I wasn’t very happy, and it showed in everything that I did.
The truth is that happy people are better liked—which means they’re better able to form great relationships. In other words, investing in your joy and pleasure is an investment in the sale, and it’s that single shift in mindset that will make all the difference in the clients you work with, how you conduct business, and your life in general. The team I dreamed of, the writing opportunities I hoped for, and the impact I could see in the near distance all came when I began to put myself first.
My days now look a lot different than they used to. I practice two hours of yoga twice a week, and my dog gets two or three walks a day. I walk almost everywhere, and run, dance, and lift weights about three times a week as well. Even though I work from home, I take the time to shower, get dressed, and put on some fun lipstick and my favorite perfume so I can feel good in my own skin. I’ve rediscovered singing, a long lost love of mine, and I do it whenever I can. In my new course, I talk at great length about how a pleasurable ritual drastically increases the likelihood of getting new clients that you love. So, make it part of your life, whether it’s indulging in your favorite yoga class, taking a nap, or unwinding on the basketball court every night.
3. Delight, Delight, Delight
Look at an average female the next time she watches one of those flash mob proposals on YouTube. We love that stuff, no matter how corny it is. Why? Because we envision ourselves there and feel like the most important thing—ever.
Your customers are the same. Business is not about the bare minimum—it’s about going the extra mile to show them they’re loved, appreciated, and important.
The fact of the matter is most people in business are preoccupied with what they themselves are going to get. It’s no wonder that many people have grown accustomed to fearing salespeople, thinking that all they care about is their end of the deal.
Thus, the bar of excellence is not all that high. (As in, you don’t need to flash mob your clients for them to love you.)
Consider systematically building in just three small delightful surprises within the first 100 days of your customer’s purchase. This concept, borrowed from Joey Coleman, Chief Experience Composer at Design Symphony, is based on years of work with top brands like Zappos, Hyatt, and others to drive customer loyalty. Plus, Joey is one smart cookie.
Delighting your customers becomes an investment in their wellbeing, and the happier they are, the more fondly they think of you. And on a very practical level, this saves countless hours of work. Acquiring new clients can be time-consuming and costly. Why not keep the ones you’ve got and have them send you new business?
When we realize that the goal isn’t one sale, but rather building long-term relationships, our lives will not only be infinitely happier, but also our wallets that much thicker.
Photo of people working courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Lauryn Ballesteros is a sales and marketing expert, blogger, and cultural entrepreneur focused on bringing authenticity into everything she touches. She loves Italy, her dog, and a good book on the beach. She just released a free, three part series on how to land your ideal client here.More from this Author