I like listening to motivational speakers. There’s a buzz that the good ones create, a feeling of energy and enthusiasm as they deliver their message.
Then it fades and real life starts happening again.
If only life were as simple as listening to someone else’s story and doing things the way they say we should.
Unfortunately, it’s not – and we all need to discover the ways that work for us ourselves. Fortunately, doing that will make us happier and more satisfied with ourselves.
The point I’m trying to make is that there are different ways to get from one point to another, from start to finish. The thing to notice is that you have to go on a journey – and you might as well arrange things so you enjoy the trip.
Let’s put this idea in the context of consultative selling. You have a product or service. The start point is that a prospective customer doesn’t know you exist. The finish point is when they sign a contract.
The Fast Road – Get Introduced By Someone You Both Know And Trust
Human beings have evolved to be fearful. That’s how we survived. We react to anything new with fear.
That’s really what many “isms” are. Racism is fear of another race. Fundamentalism is fear of another religion.
If you have children you’ll know what happens when they’re surprised.
I was sat in the Park Guell in Barcelona, a place full of Gaudi’s creations, and one of my children was trying to fill a water bottle at the public fountain.
He was struggling to press the tap. A person stood with his kids noticed this and came over to help him.
The moment my child became aware of this strange person coming into his space he ran. Just picked up his water bottle and sprinted to me, running to safety, running out of fear.
Your prospect is grown up, but has exactly the same primal reaction mechanism built into him or her. They’re bigger and can control their fear a little more, but it’s still there.
So, just like you knew something was safe when your parents or a friend said it was, your prospect will accept that you’re worth talking to if you’re introduced by someone they know and trust.
It’s simply the best way. Period. Of course, you first need to earn that other person’s trust, and it can become an ever increasing chain of introductions.
If you’re lucky, you’re born with the right connections. Your parents know people. You went to the right schools. You’ve made the right connections at University and the people you know are now running businesses and institutions and know other people.
So, some of this is down to luck. Actually, when you think about it, the fast road is really mainly down to luck. If you’re lucky, make the most of it.
As someone said, if you want to have a good life, choose your parents carefully.
The Straight Road. Be A Battering Ram
This is the road to take if you weren’t born lucky, but aren’t afraid of hard work.
It’s simple on this road. Just keep going straight on. If there are obstacles, go over, under or around them. Or break them down. Obstacles will simply slow you down – they won’t stop you unless you decide to stop.
For example, I read on social media that someone called an organisation for a particular person and was told by the gatekeeper that they only allowed calls through from companies they already worked with.
So, if you’re a new firm looking to get business don’t call them. They’ll call you.
Which is really a polite way of saying the person you’re trying to talk to is too busy to bother with things like talking to potential suppliers, regardless of how much benefit you could bring them.
If you’re on the straight road, however, this isn’t going to stop you.
You’ll simply call back again a week later. Maybe there will be a different receptionist who will let you through.
You’ll call at a different time, either really early or really late, aiming to call while the receptionist is out and hoping your call goes straight through.
You’ll use social media to connect with your prospect, or figure out an email address, or contact another office.
Whatever happens, you’ll get through.
The thing with this approach is that it works. It works because you’ll eventually get meetings, simply from the law of averages. If you knock on enough doors, someone will eventually listen to you.
The problem is that it’s exhausting. You need abundant reserves of positive energy, a thick skin and the willingness to take rejection day after day in pursuit of your goal.
You have to want to win – to batter that door down and take your prospect by the scruff of his neck and make him listen to you.
The Slow Road. Show Your Work
The first two approaches will work for you at any stage of your career. This next one takes time.
It takes time because you’re not selling a product or a service. You’re selling yourself. You are taking the time to show what you do – where it can be seen.
The most obvious example of this these days is content marketing. The more time you spend opening up what you do to the world, the more likely it is that people who are interested will come across you. This is called being discoverable.
Making yourself discoverable takes time. You need to put things out there. You need to write and speak, do video and audio, meet people and network, go to conferences and be seen. It’s doing all the things that establish you as a voice, as a professional and as someone worth knowing.
This doesn’t come easy to some of us. For example, I like writing but I don’t like crowds. I don’t enjoy travelling long distances and mingling with people I don’t know.
I do like going places where I learn something and where I have the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations. That works for me.
The slow road really is about not worrying about the finish point so much and trying to enjoy the journey. Consultative selling is really about helping someone else with a problem.
Problems aren’t created overnight – not the kind that you’re probably helping with anyway. It takes time to change things, to find that processes that worked perfectly well when there were three people in a room work less well when there are twenty five. To realise that you need help and it’s time to call in the professionals.
If you just take the time to be professional – to be someone that is focused on building a reputation – then you’ll find that the slow road is the most rewarding one.
Surely it’s better than feeling you are where you are just because of what your parents did? And it must be more rewarding than spending every day being told not to call back?
The slow road, then, is about doing things that are right for you. Right because they make you feel good about how you spend your days. And, in spending your days doing work, you’ll build a reputation and people will find you.
You just have to trust the process. It won’t happen in a year. It will probably take ten. But then you’ll find that you’ve created something worth having. As the saying goes, people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can do in ten.
It’s probably clear where my preferences lie. Which road I think is best. But what I think doesn’t matter. What matters is that you pick the one that is right for you. They stick to that road – that approach.
You only get to the finish line by completing the journey, so whichever road you choose, stay on it till you’re done.
As a reminder, this is the fifth post in a series that I’m planning on eventually collecting into a book on Consultative Selling. If you are reading this and are interested in this topic, please let me have any feedback, good or bad, so I can make this as useful and easy to read for you as possible.