I’ve been eager to address this issue on my blog for a while . . . With travel in July and then an absolutely transformative extended weekend “spirit staycation” in Schaumburg at Tony Robbins’s legendary Unleash the Power Within seminar that then set dynamite to so much of my life, it’s taken me this long to truly get settled back into the everyday of normal life. (I tend to take the time I need to reset.)
Anyway, I’m back, baby! Today I’d like to talk about the concept of creating needs in prospective clients. As businesspeople (or salespeople or whatever — and 100% of working people are marketers in whatever it is they do), sometimes it is a common practice to make assumptions about other people’s needs and then accidentally come across as annoying or pushy.
You know what I mean. People in sales don’t have a bad rap for no reason. (To be clear, I also plan to write a post about the fallacy that selling is evil. More on that later, but for the record I have no problem with the sales industry.) I for one will be the first to admit that I don’t mind being sold to — in fact, if you have a solution to a problem I’ve got, tell me what I don’t know! Share your product or service with me, and if I resonate with it, I’ll either look you up, keep you in mind, or buy on the spot.
But this does not give businesspeople permission to swoop down and play predator. I’d say the vast majority of people out and about feel similarly, that they are more than willing to trade dollars for value. Naturally, value differs from person to person. For me, it’s just about the easiest thing to sell me a book or a fitness program because I value reading, learning, and exercise. But I know some people who wouldn’t exercise if you paid them, but something like a video game means the world to them.
People value different things, and unless you personally know these people or they have told you explicitly what they need or desire, do not make assumptions. ESPECIALLY if you have never actually spent the time to get to know these people!
Let me repeat that. Before selling to somebody, you must invest the energy to make a connection with that person. Don’t tell me you don’t have the time — if you want your brand to be associated with integrity, good service, and authenticity, you absolutely must build relationships with the people you work with. People trust people, not companies.
That said, though, when money comes into a relationship, it becomes a business transaction. That’s fine, and someone is far more apt to exchanging her hard-earned dollars for product/service if she believes you care about her. Do you? I hope so — make it your mission to reach out and offer your product or service only when you can really see how you’re meeting these people’s needs or desires.
Now, this is the key. Before you start shooting off your pitch, ask yourself two key questions. Did she express a need? Did she express a desire?
When I say “express,” I mean “explicitly say” or “imply.” I do NOT mean that you get to conclude she could really use your service, your widget, or opportunity based on how she appears.
Look, when I was an undergrad I was told I “looked like a party girl.” Since I never brushed my teeth with a bottle of Jack or left a trail of glitter in my wake (#Ke$ha) — oh, and in case I didn’t make it clear in my first post on networking, I hated parties filled with strangers — this was pretty inaccurate. I was also approached walking around on the quad by sorority girls inviting me to check out their houses. (I spent exactly zero seconds in my seven years of undergrad in frat houses and maybe two hours at my friend’s sorority event one time.) I’m not saying that these people offended me; they didn’t, but they did make some off-mark assumptions about me and my lifestyle.
(By the way, I know what you’re thinking, and no, I was not a hermit at university. I still made friends and went to parties when it felt okay.)
You just simply cannot know what someone is or isn’t interested in before you engage in conversation and actually bother to find out.
I have had the misfortune to have networked with many women recently who forgot to actually ask me anything about me or my life, which is fine. It happens. But they then proceeded to promote their opportunities, events, and products to me over and over again to the point that I actually got pretty upset.
They both sell beauty and skincare products. The fact that my skin may look great does not automatically mean I’m what Jenna Marbles calls a “goo hoarder” (YouTube it). On the contrary, for me, it means I’m good, thanks.
I also had a graphic designer single me out at a networking event recently (as in, in front of every person there) for having home-made business cards. She assumed I needed someone to do them for me because I was doing them myself — by the way, I like the way they are, homemade or not. My company is also finally allowing us to create our own webpages this coming fall, so it makes no sense to order new cards at this juncture. And I enjoy creating my own marketing materials! (Call me a control freak, but I designed each and every one of my blog banners from this one to Rehab Revolution to Premier Pamela, as well as the one for my parents’ restaurant. If I had the patience to adapt graphic design seriously into my marketable repertoire, I’d happily do so.)
I hope this rant inspires you never to make assumptions again about what someone needs or desires before you go ahead and create these for him. Worst-case scenario? Can you imagine if you were a personal trainer, you ran into a stranger who was a bit overweight, and you said, “Hi! You look like you could use some exercise. Look me up”?
I think that’s ’nuff said.
Here’s the thing, though. You can encourage them to express their needs or desires by asking the right questions. But you’re not going to go anywhere if you then feel you need to convince them of anything and do the “hard sell,” because then it becomes more about you and not about serving them and offering them a solution to their problem.
Perhaps you’ve done everything right. You’ve established a relationship of trust and camaraderie and you’ve asked them the appropriate, non-pushy questions. They’re either not interested or it’s not the right time. Don’t sweat it — now is the best time to reply with a friendly, “Great, if anything changes and you think I can help you out, please let me know. Do you know anyone else who might benefit from [my product or service]?” Asking for referrals is a sound practice that can greatly multiply your client base, so get in the habit of doing so.
And as always, if you hear they do need or desire a certain connection with a specific type of person (“a chiropractor,” “an accountant,” what have you), jump at the chance to connect them! Remember, networking is also about creating connections that don’t have anything to do with you, either. (Like the callback? Eh, eh?) Put out that positive energy and it’ll reward you in return.