This is part of a series on consultative selling for FOSS and DIY LIMS organizations looking to either gain members or to illicit sales. It can be applied to virtually any type of selling however.
The Farm Analogy
Not everybody cares about selling. What prompts the desire to sell is really an organizing principle. You've got a product or service that at least one person in the world wants and you want to sell it to others with similar needs. Easy, right?
Compare this to a farm. A farm is a place where crops are grown and sometimes animals are penned in an organized fashion. When you walk into a field you should find a great diversity of species, evidence of an ecosystem. A farm however doesn't have any of this -- you should expect to only see a limited number of plant species in neat rows and animals in pens.
Farming isn't like hunting or wild cultivation. Going out into the wild to find resources involves lots of work sometimes without guarantee of success. From an economic standpoint farms make more sense which is why the ultimate aim is to make your sales system look and feel more like one.
Have you ever wondered why some companies grow primarily by purchasing other companies? It should be obvious to you if you use the farm analogy -- because they are 'buying the farm' instead of trying to go out and cultivate a particular customer base from scratch.
Let's look at a few models that are popular but virtually guarantee your initiative will keep you hunting and cultivating forever (in other words, what 'not' to do).
You Call When You Need Me?
If you are in the United States and watch television you likely have noticed lots of McDonald's commercials lately. If you frequent the business news you would know that McDonald's was posting comparatively low sales. They needed a sales boost and a big one. Hence, the campaign.
You would think the McDonald's campaign would center around their value proposition -- hastily made burgers, sugary drinks, salt and fat content rivaling their contemporaries -- but it does not. In fact their commercials have been far more centered around trying to evoke some emotional response, in this case love, and adding their products to the mix. It is a lot like grandma breaking out the family picture album after realizing that her grandchildren have grown up and are spending less time with her.
Companies like Progressive aren't constantly advertising and keeping themselves in your mental space because they love spending money. They know that it is a bad idea to start an advertising campaign only after news about your sales numbers goes public. It gives your customers the impression that you only 'care' about them when you need their money.
If we go back to the farm analogy this is the equivalent to ignoring how much water your crops are getting. When you want some cabbage you'll find they are all spoiled. You need to tend to your crops and look after them daily. You need to focus on what they want and need before they get ruined.
This means communicating with your customer base even when they are not buying or even in the buying mood. Think about it -- when customers are buying they have far less time to absorb your messages. They want the answer 'now' and often for the lowest price. Long before this however they will go into an organizing phase where they will attempt to classify options by name and rank them according to their relative desirability. In that phase your messages will have their greatest impact. Don't just talk to them for the sake of talking -- figure out where your prospects are in the overall buying cycle and tailor your messages accordingly.
Too Many Crops
If you are trying to make everybody happy you are effectively recreating the wild in your farm. It will take about the same amount of time and effort to cultivate as it would in the wild. Forget about it.
You want to limit your offerings to just the ones that make money and will protect your vital resources (the soil, water, etc.) -- that means just a handful of them. Yes, that means that some customers are going to leave your farm. Sometimes they might be the biggest customers, but you need a diverse farm. A single-crop farm means you cannot financially survive in prolonged bad weather.
Your product base needs diversity. If one set of customers decides they want something else your business is not sunk if you can rely on the other customer set. An easy way to develop a more diverse customer base is to write down ideal customer characteristics -- typically the ones that have made you the most money in the past -- and then to change those characteristics to see if they fit the second, third, or fourth ranked customer sets. In other words, by changing some aspects of your products/services could you boost sales in under-performing areas to make them rival your top sellers?
Try and do this with the help of real people in those customer sets. You are looking for simple-to-fix barriers to purchasing, the low hanging fruit. For instance, a restaurant owner might find, only after interviewing some of their 'less performing' customers, that they would have visited more often if it wasn't for the annoying waitress that works the second shift. In this case a simple change in personnel is all that is needed to boost sales in an under-performing area, but you would never know it without interviewing customers outside of the top 20%.
For an Open Source LIMS product maker you might be making great inroads into what we called the 'LIS' (laboratory information systems) market recently. What you don't realize is that every news release that speaks of your great successes in this area turns away a certain number of customers who might think you are only interested in being a LIS provider. Remember that there is this organizing and classifying that is going on long before the declared purchase cycle begins. All the messages you have put out in that span of time are taken into consideration. If what they've been receiving in that period are stories of your successes in forensics, then something about your successes in environmental labs, then back to the LIS stuff you stand a greater chance of tapping those prospects when they get into the 'buying mood'.
Failure to Sign 'Em Up
You have two missions as an organization with very little money and a desire for growth. Mission #1: Always be generating leads. Mission #2: Always be closing with anybody and everybody that is ready.
There was a presenter at a conference that made a series of very good arguments for joining her not-for-profit initiative. When the talk was over several people met with her afterwards not only to ask questions but one literally said the equivalent of, 'okay, sign me up!' Not only did she not try to sign up the people that had gotten satisfactory answers but she failed to sign up the one fellow who asked! She sent him to a website and dismissed him almost immediately, trying to make time for the next person.
When you give a talk have one or two non-presenters there with a clipboard or tablet ready to capture the contact information of anybody interested immediately, before they have had a chance to think it over. A talk to a mass group (if it is not a Q and A session) is really like a television commercial. When people walk over to you afterwards they have done the equivalent of calling the 1-800 number and asked for more information. You have them at that point! Sign them up, get their contact information, find out their top objections and deliver any counters you forgot to mention in the talk. Go-go-go!
You must develop an incessant drive to complete the two missions. Every person you know has leads. Every lead might be ready to close at any moment. You must exist in a constant state of readiness and, when you find you need it, must rehearse the skills needed to maintain that level of readiness.
People are people, they're not plants. This is true. But in your contact management system and in your sales pipeline managing your contact with them as one would plants in a farm is necessary. If you want to have a productive, growing relationship with the right people you need to do this regularly. If you are trying to reach out to too many types and varieties your system will be no better than the wild. If you ignore them until you want them the relationship can be ruined. If you have too much of a single variety you might find yourself starving when disaster strikes. Finally, develop a constant state of readiness when interacting with anybody with a pulse; get leads and close as if they are the only two things you ever learned how to do.Go Back
Citation: FOSS DIY Selling Pt 1. (2015). Retrieved Sun Apr 30 05:01:50 2017, from http://www.limsexpert.com/cgi-bin/bixchange/bixchange.cgi?pom=limsexpert3;iid=readMore;go=1426178083