Recently a colleague of mine reached out to me to see what he should be doing now that he was in the process of negotiating his first deal. It would be a sweet deal for the company in the six-figure range, so there was a lot of pressure on his part to make sure he was able to close it successfully.
Slow It Down
My friend knew that I’ve been an entrepreneur for years and he was calling a few of his buddies that had their own companies to ask them their thoughts. The first thing I mentioned to him was that he needed to take it easy and get his head fully into the game. It was vital that he not overthink things, but it was equally essential to be thoughtful and decisive about it because this would be the kick-start that his business needed to get off the ground. It was going to have to be a balance to keep his mind where it had to be to close the account successfully.
Know the Client
The next thing I mentioned to my friend was that he had to know his client. When I said it, he promptly replied that he had done his due diligence. For instance, I asked him if he understood all aspects of their business? I also wondered if he had a deep understanding of their hot buttons and what can potentially drive them not to sign an agreement? Did he know who the players were within the company that were making the decision––not only the officers of the business but the people with soft-power influence?
Understand the Strengths and Weaknesses
I’ve been in sales since I started my first job as a teenager working at a shoe store, and a skill I’ve developed is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the people with whom we do business. It’s essential to have an in-depth knowledge of what makes the client the best in their business and also their weak spots. Your company might never address their weaknesses because that’s not your expertise, but when you partner with them, a value-add you can always offer, for instance, are recommendations from people who might be able to help them where they’re weaker. Also, by knowing their weaknesses, you demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of what makes them tick, which is something they want to know when signing up with a vendor.
Fill the Void, Fill the Need
Following up on what I mentioned above, you want to be an expert in the work you do, but you want to do something more. You want to give your potential customers and clients the ideas that will help them understand that you are an essential member of their team. This process begins from the point of sales. Always do more. Give your clients tips, ideas, strategies, recommendations for how you would approach doing things in their business, even if it’s not necessarily related to what you’re doing for them. When you have broader expertise and advice, it helps you become a trusted partner with your clients, even before you sign the agreement.
Be a Partner
If you follow what I write or you do business with one of my brands, something that would become apparent fairly quickly is that we see our relationships with clients as partnerships. When you have a partnership, you have a relationship of equals, and both benefit from it. It’s vital to be a reliable partner not only by providing advice and suggestions along the way, as well as recommendations but also by offering exceptional customer service. I use the word “exceptional” on purpose. Many companies talk about their excellent customer support. You want to do one better, which will help you get more clients from referrals. You want to have exceptional customer relations, and it begins before your partners are your customers.
Finally, a great question that I ask potential partners, and which I mentioned to my friend is to ask this question: What this means to you is? In other words, every time they are telling you that they want or need or you learn something that is of great importance or value to them, you want to understand why. By knowing the “why” of things, you get context for everything related to your future business partner.
Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)
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