I was selling vacuum cleaners in people’s homes for several years. The vast majority of my sales came from simply knocking on doors, and making sales presentations to the people who would agree to it. I was making a good, yet steady (read Plateaued) income. I studied selling as an art. I talked to people who were making huge incomes from their selling. And I met Julius Toth.
At the time (maybe the early 1980s), Julius owned a small retail store selling vacuum cleaners in a lower middle class area of Barberton, Ohio. He was selling about a million dollars in vacuum cleaners a year. His selling prowess was mythic. We found that we read the same books, used many of the same methods, and had a similar philosophy on life. We became friends almost instantly.
We would meet every Monday for breakfast to share ideas, and motivate each other. One day at breakfast, I asked Julius what the difference was between what he did & what I did.
He gave it some thought and said “Let’s imagine this was the Old West. You are a cattle rustler. Every day, you go out looking for stray cattle. You find them, put your brand on them, and sell them. Every day, you do the same thing. Every day you wake up thinking about your next head of cattle. Me?… I’m a rancher. I have a ranch. I have cattle. I have a herd. I feed them, water them, and keep them warm at night. I nurture them, fatten them, and breed them. Every day my herd grows. Every day you start with nothing. Every day I start with a herd.”
You should read that last paragraph again. When I heard it, it was like someone threw a glass of cold water in my face.
I got it. His way was better. It’s all about the herd. It’s all about growing the herd. ..feeding the herd…and creating some real wealth in your business.
If you are selling to a limited market, for example…all small businesses in a small town…or a small geographic area…or you sell to a very specific industry, and your total potential market is under a few thousand…or….you want to choose clients/customers that are very specific according to income, interests, or business size……then…
Find people you want to work with and then court them. There will be prospects that buy right away… and people you won’t want to work with. The rest will be people that will slowly come around. People buy at different speeds. They make decisions at different speeds. It’s worth it to keep after them. I would be surprised if you don’t get 80% of them eventually.
How to grow prospects into clients is what we’ll discuss now. Let’s imagine that you are not married, and are looking. Can you imagine just walking up to someone and saying “Hi. You’re cute. Will you marry me?” The answers would always be “No”, you would soon become depressed… and you would eventually stop asking. But people get married every day. How is this possible? They court. They make small gestures to each other that shows interest and deepens a bond. Eventually that bond become nearly unbreakable. The same process happens in business relationships. If you find a business owner that you want as a client, just keep at it. Offer suggestions, give information, send articles that apply to them, and don’t give up. Amazingly, people will warm up to you… you’ll become a welcome guest (instead of a pest)… and they will start listening.
How else is it to your advantage to grow your herd, rather than just be a cattle rustler and go hunting for stray cattle every day? (cold calling new people)
If you position yourself as someone who works mostly by referrals, you’ll get referrals from your clients. These people are almost certain to be willing to talk to you…and they know someone that has bought from you…who is bragging to that referral about what you did for them, and what they bought from you. These easy referral sales multiply the better you get at your referral process and are half sold before you even meet them.
I hate to admit this, but the first 12 years or so I was selling in people’s homes (first life insurance for 18 months, then vacuum cleaners for decades), it simply never occurred to me to go back to the people who had already bought from me. You know…those people who were now used to seeing me, liked me, trusted me, and wee used to buying what I recommended? Those people. I’m a slow study.
One day, I happened to knock on a door and started a presentation with a couple that I found out (I didn’t remember them) that they bought from me about 7 years prior. And you know what? They were tired of the old model of vacuum cleaner they bought from me…there had been some improvements…and they bought the new model. And so I started going back to the people that had bought from me before…and I found out three important things;
- The average time between buying high priced (and high quality) vacuum cleaners tended to be about 6 years.
- These people had already proven to be the single best appointments in history…people who were used to buying from me.
- And…..they gave me referrals that were ready to buy. Why? Because after they bought from me the first time, the next fee years they bragged to their friends about what they bought and how great it was. so, when I went back, and they bought the new model, these buyers were ready to give me the names of people they had bragged to…ad were very willing to call these new prospect for me to ask if it was OK for me to call them. Of course, this kept adding layers of older customers that had bought 5,10,15 years ago from me.
So…..my business grew to include past customers that were going to buy from me again, the referrals they gave me, and the referrals the new customers gave me. The sad part is that it took me a wasted 20 years before any of this occurred to me. It took a great friend and mentor to shake me by the shoulders and explaining what a real business was, and a past customer to show me the value of.well…past customers.
I still cold called…but now it was to train new salespeople that worked for me how to do it, and to keep my skill at cold calling intact.
I really hope you gained something from this, and I wish you a great New Year.