Prescription Without Diagnosis is Malpractice
How often do you sell something just to make the sale? How often do you approach a supplier at a show and ask "Whatʼs new?" Do you ever show your clients something because you get a special bonus or extra profit for selling it?
If so, you are lucky that no one ever gets sued for malpractice in our business. If so, you are a part of the problem that causes our industry to be perceived as the "t" and "t" words (or worse).
Yes, I am once again beating my drum that you must be finding out "where it hurts" for your clients and presenting solutions that relieve their pain. If you are in any other business than solving problems, you will be forever stuck in the no-win, zero-sum commodity game of who can get it cheaper. If you decide to play that game you better get extremely good at it—like world-class good at it—or you will never enjoy customer loyalty.
Hereʼs the thing: Problem solvers ALWAYS make money. If you solve problems, you will always have loyal customers. You will be trusted. You will be able to flex your creativity muscles. Youʼll be viewed as innovative and as a leader. Customers will seek you out and they will send other customers to you. It will happen. Itʼs the law.
How do you become a problem solver?
- Focus on your customers first. Read their trade publications. Go to their trade shows. Job shadow them. Check out their competition. Ask questions. Ask them directly; "What keeps you up at night? Where does it hurt? Where do you want to see improvement?" Then listen. Listen hard, listen actively and shut up except to ask deeper questions. Listen for understanding. Then continue to shut up. Look for answers. Google is your friend.
- Use your resources. Your multi-line and factory reps want to help you. They have seen a lot of creativity and they have seen a lot of successful promotions. Instead of asking them "whatʼs new?", ask them what they have seen work in (fill in your clientsʼ industries here). Develop a partnership of trust and share objectives, budgets, constraints and take advantage of your access to some of the best minds in the business. You may need to remind some of them that your objective is to solve problems, not to sell a whole bunch of product. Use your regional and national trade associations for both professional development and for networking. Amazing things happen when you start connecting with others who are focusing on becoming the most professional practitioners in the business. Check out the Pyramid Award Winners. Participate in online forums. Join LinkedIn Groups.
- Sell solutions, not product. Yes, many of us are dependent on selling stuff to put groceries on the table. In my nearly three decades of selling to some of the biggest brands and companies in the world, I have found that there is a truism: The more you give, the more that gets returned to you. Sell the right solution over the most personally profitable sale. I have found that there is also a law that the more you give, the more you get. I canʼt explain it or how it works, but it has always held true when Iʼve trusted it.
Many years ago, I persistently called on a major pharmaceutical company trying to get to see the promotional products buyer. Over several years, I was able to get a relationship in marketing and got to get some work with a single brand, but the buyer often times got the last look and could send my work off to one of his favored distributors. When at long last, I was able to secure an appointment with this purchasing agent/buyer, I came into his office in suit and tie and carrying only a padfolio. He looked up, surprised and asked me where my suitcase was. "Suitcase?" I responded. "Yes," he said, "ad specialty sales people always come in here with a suitcase full of samples and cover my desk with them." I looked him in the eye and told him that I didnʼt work that way and that I needed to ask him some questions first. I told him that "prescription without diagnosis is malpractice." Within a month, they became one of my largest accounts.