Your current customers are your best asset to find new customers. When you have a successful sale, ALWAYS ask for a referral. Every time I’ve asked for a referral in my career, I’ve gotten one. It’s when I didn’t ask that I didn’t get one.
Be ready for a long sales cycle. The government makes slow decisions and it’s even slower when you’re trying to convince them to buy something they haven’t purchased before or switch vendors.
Like all buyers, though, it’s still run by people who are more inclined to buy from you if they like you. The first step is to make sure you are communicating with the buyer and not someone who thinks they are. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the questions, “are you the decision maker for this field?” and “is there anyone else I should include?” during this process.
Once you’ve established a relationship you have to work on gaining an advantage and that advantage is for you to be written into the bid specs. Every company has their competitive advantage that is somewhat different than your competitors. Even if you feel you don’t have anything special, you can still ask to have the bid specifications written as such; “equipment provided shall be the ’12” pump’ as provided by Godwin Pumps of Bridgeport, NJ.” I specifically mention Godwin Pumps because they have done an absolutely incredible job at getting their pumps specified in government bids. Their pumps aren’t any better, but they asked to be specified and the customer complied.
If you can get your company or product mentioned in the bid, you are leap years ahead of the competition. Let me know how it works out for you! email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Golf is an awesome relationship building tool and can facilitate making friends for a long time. Here’s how to use golf to make sales for the long haul.
Verify your customers coming the morning of and then get to the course early and pay for their rounds before they get there. Buy your customers either entire box of logoed of balls if you have the budget or even a sleeve of logoed balls will suffice. The logoed balls creates a memory of the course for the customers as most customers want to save the ball with a logo. Make sure you have access to their range if they have one and make sure you hit a few on the range. Keep it light and loose on the range and don’t hit too many balls. You only have so many good shots during the day.
When you start, gauge your customer’s interest on placing a wager….something like a wager on par threes, birdies are worth money, etc. This is not necessary, but usually adds an element of fun.
I’ve never purposefully lost to a customer. I’ve been beaten a bunch but I never purposefully lose. But, I’ve played with guys that beat me and had a great time watching them do it and I’ve also been beaten by guys who take a little too much pleasure in it….In other words, if you are beating your customer, try not to make it obvious and don’t do anything that will make them think you’re a jagoff like rubbing it in their face or telling them you’re the greatest golfer ever.
I never mention work/sales/business for at least the first nine holes. 100% of the time I’ve golfed with customers, they brought up business before I felt it was necessary. When they bring up your company is the time for you to explain your business, how you can help them, and then ask a few probing questions like, “what is your biggest challenge with the equipment you rent at your refinery?” or “‘if we were able to manage your inventory would that solve your problem?”
Feed your customers well at the turn and continue on the round. Make sure you give them a firm handshake at the end and offer to buy them lunch or dinner in the clubhouse if you have time. If you don’t have time to buy them lunch make sure you establish the next step whether it’s getting them a formal proposal or setting another meeting.
The most important thing about golfing with the customer is to have fun with them and develop that relationship. If they like you, they will buy from you. It might not happen at first, but don’t give up!
A 529 plan is an investment vehicle that you can put after tax dollars in for your child’s education.
For example, you take $1,000 from your checking account and open a 529, pick a mutual fund, and that money grows TAX-FREE until your child needs it.
It was originally made to be a savings plan for college but can also be used for private school before college.
Why is this amazing? Well, your money grows TAX-FREE! When you need that money, you don’t pay any TAXES! That is the amazing part!
Here’s another amazing part….most states will give you a TAX-BREAK for opening a 529! I put $1800 in my son’s 529 in 2018 and got approximately a $200 tax break. That’s about an 11% return on my money immediately.
What if you put too money in your 529 (that would be a heluva an awesome problem to have)? Well, you can use that money for your other kids.
What if I don’t have kids? Consider yourself lucky, but the 529 doesn’t apply to you.
Trust me, your future self will thank your current self profusely if you use your commission to open a 529 plan instead of blowing it on a 40 year old boat.
There are three ways to get a raise:
- Ask for a raise (almost never works)
- Get a competing offer and go to your manager (pisses your company and boss off)
- Give yourself a raise (best option)
I remember the first, and only, time I asked for a raise. I was a recent graduate from college and was managing the operations of a million dollar branch of a Midwest pesticide company. I was getting paid about $45,000/year, but I felt I deserved more.
It was tough to work up the courage, but having to live 45 minutes away in a tiny apartment and the realization that I was living off Ramen noodles gave me that will to ask.
I didn’t have a chance. I had absolutely nothing prepared on my market value, but I knew I wanted more money. The conversation went way better than I thought it would! We talked for a while discussed a bunch of non-work things and in the end he said he’d get work on it and get back to me! Wow! What a nice guy!
2 months later, I never heard a thing and the only feedback I got was, “that thing you asked me about…I’m still working on it.”
It was a good experience, though, in that it prepared me for future salary negotiations. Later, the same company would promote me to a sales representative and give me an $8,000.00 raise plus commission without asking for it. And that is how you give yourself a raise. Change jobs within the same company that pays more.
I’ve also gotten a raise using a competing offer. I got an offer for a few thousand more dollars and then brought it to them and then they gave me a $12,500 raise to counter it, but I did that the wrong way. If I had wanted to stay at hat company, I should’ve said, “Mike, I got another offer, but I’m not going to take it. But what does my future look like here?”
My advice to you is this: Give yourself a raise by working hard and efficient and/or transition to a sales job where you can earn commission. Here are a couple steps you can do to work harder:
- Turn off the TV (HGTV consistently shows reruns from 5-7 years ago…really?)
- Work AT LEAST 2 hours per night on research, proposals, and education
Try these two steps and you’ll find you’ll give yourself a raise in no time.
I was in the process of making the company I worked for a lot of money. Like tens of millions in a short amount of time. I had made contact with a company in my territory and immediately established a good relationship with the decision maker, who just happened to live a mile away from where I grew up. I was also making a lot of contact with other companies we could potentially work and establishing relationships with them.
In comes my boss….here’s the new sales rep! He’s going to split the business with you!
I immediately viewed him as a threat and started searching for other jobs.
Then they made me train him. Not only were they giving him half of my territory, they were going to make me train the SOB?!?!
That’s when my attitude changed. It turns out he was out of a job due to the economy and wasn’t looking to step on my toes. He was also very good at selling and building relationships and I realized I could learn a lot from him.
It took a couple years before we became the friends we are today, but he and I still stay in touch even though we’re both at different companies and live hours away.
If you are having to deal with a difficult coworker or sales rep, first try to spend more time with them to see things from their point of view. Not just a 10 minute meeting a day….you need to go on a business trip with them or a long drive to visit a client.
Try this and give me feedback on what you found!
Before I became a pilot, I didn’t have a strong opinion on airplanes either way. They were interesting, but, like most people nowadays, I simply viewed them as a necessary evil/vehicle to get from A to B. I do, however, have the pleasure of remembering what it was like to fly before 9/11, but that’s another blog.
I became friends with a couple of customers and they were both pilots. And both of them talked about flying. A lot. I had never known a real pilot before in my life and was intrigued at how someone could have the balls to fly one of those tiny things around. Then he offered to take me for a flight.
It was an Aeronca Champ, similar to a Piper Cub, where you had to fold yourself to get in and the pilot sat behind you in a tandem seating arrangement. We bumped along in the grass and pulled onto the grass next to the runway. “Aren’t you supposed to be on the pavement?” I asked through the headphone mic….”Nah…the grass is softer.”
Taking off and flying in that Aeronca was a feeling that was tough to describe. If you’ve ever ridden a motorcycle a bicycle, picture yourself riding on the road and then suddenly leaving the earth. Even that doesn’t accurately describe how amazing it is to have a view of the treetops as if you were a Great Blue Heron lumbering along to search for some frogs.
We flew over some of the sites we mutually worked on, we flew over the golf course I played a bunch of times and flew up and down the road I commuted on nearly every day. Seeing all those things from the air made me appreciate the wonderful, rural, land I worked in and instantly gave me a new appreciation for my friend Larry. That flight also gave me a curiosity and passion for something I had never experienced before. That’s what flying will do…almost every flight in a small airplane enriches your life and is an amazing vehicle for making friends.
Larry and I continued to do business together and I would later keep him updated on my progress as I started my flight training. I moved away, but still run into Larry occasionally and I always make it a point to thank him for that first flight. That was a tremendous gift, and I’m not even sure he realized he gave me anything.