If you’ve ever owned your own business, chances are that at some point, you’ve had to convince someone, somewhere that your product or service was worth paying money for. For those who haven’t done it before, it’s really, really hard.
The first time I had to sell anything, I was working as a loan officer for Bridgehampton National Bank, a community bank on the eastern end of long island, aka the Hamptons. My job was to go visit local business owners and convince them that if they needed to borrow, they should borrow from BNB. I actually really hated it. I loved financial statement analysis, hated cold calling. Anyway, in order to make all the bankers better at their jobs, they brought in a sales coach to help us. I expect for them to have scripts or something, you know, the perfect thing to say that that’ll reel ’em in. But it wasn’t that at all.
What this training taught me was a few major themes:
First, marketing is not an event, it’s a process. What the heck does that mean? It means that if you’re not going to sell something to everyone who walks in the door, the first TIME they walk in the door. Obviously people don’t literally expect that, but there are lots of business owners who throw $1000 at some Facebook ads, and are disappointed when the world doesn’t beat a path to their door. The best way I can describe marketing is like planting a garden. Over here I plant a row of tomato seeds, over there some cucumber, and of the far side some watermelon. When I plant the seeds, I throw a few into each seeds into a little hole, then cover them with soil. Then, I make sure they get plenty of water, and plenty of sun. Finally, after a few weeks, a few seedling start to pop their heads out. So, what’s this all got to do with marketing? Well, consider each row of plants to be a way to reach potential clients. You tomatoes are Facebook ads. The cucumbers represent your SEO strategy. And the Watermelons are your professional networking events. Just like there is no way to know which of them will sprout first, there is now way to know which marketing channel will result in a sale. And just as we don’t know which seed will pop its little head out first, we don’t know which Facebook Ad, which SEO strategy, or which person at which networking event will get you a sale. But what we do know is that if you stay patient and take the necessary steps, just as those little seeds will start to emerge, you will start to see leads. And that’s why marketing is a process, not an event. You don’t know which seeds will pop up, or when, but rest assured that eventually your seeds will bloom into a fruitful garden.
Second, selling any product or service is not about “getting one over” on someone, or convincing them to make a bad decision. That’s a recipe for disaster both in terms of reputation and recurring revenue. Sales, you see is about finding the right product or service that meets the needs of the client. When someone calls me about my consulting services because they defaulted on their SBA loan, it doesn’t automatically mean I try to sell them on my services. It has to be a good fit. Maybe their loan balance is too low, or they have too much equity in their home (making a foreclosure possible), or the guarantor has a significant net worth. In all those cases, it would do me no good to sell a client on services, knowing full well that settling their SBA loan would be unlikely.
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Think about that when you are working on marketing your business, because while it often doesn’t happen in a flash, slow and steady, may in fact win the race.