As I sit at a Sales Team Dinner in San Francisco I came to the realization that I was failing as a sales professional. I was not providing immense value to my customers. The result? I was not building loyal customers. A concept so simple, but sometimes forgotten in the hustle of making quota.
One of my colleagues at dinner made the comment, “to succeed in this business, you need to build a following. This may only start with one customer, but don’t worry it will grow.”
This concept is very similar to the Kevin Kelly article 1,000 true fans, which since this incident I have regarded as my sales growth mantra. The concept of 1,000 true fans is one in which you are building a following in order create very loyal customers. Customers in which buy everything from you, because you provide them with an immense amount of value. The building of a following takes time, but is rewarding both financially, as well as personally. Fans are customers you genuinely build a relationship with and solve their problems. To gain a fan you are providing a customer with immense value on a consistent basis.
Building a following is simple if you are willing to put in the time, deliver value, and have genuine concern for your customers. Here is an example of how I started to build my following:
How Do I Build My Following
Very shortly after the dinner I realized I was failing, I set out to create a new strategy in my Sales Territory. I was going to build my following, and I was going to do this through delivering value. At the time, I was calling upon dentists, and something dentists are always looking for is new and improved information in order to better the care they provide to their patients. By going through extensive learning at seminars and classes, a Dentist would receive “Continuing Education” credits. I was lucky enough to work with a company that provided these credits through sponsoring lectures. These lectures were focused on clinical cases and would provide a value to dentists I wanted as customers.
To build my following, I hosted a lecture series and invited prospective dentists to the lecture. This allowed me to be in front of the dentists and provide value. Also, I now had clinical information to discuss with the Dentists to dig further into their practice and determine how I could assist them. Also, by my clinical understanding of my products and industry, I was establishing credibility. The result of hosting a series of these events, I was able to slowly increase the amount of attendees and build my following, which started with very few attendees. The attendees to my lectures were becoming my “True Fans”.
How Do You Build Your Following
Not every company or individual has the resources to provide dinner and speakers to customers, but everybody has the resources to provide value to customers. Building a true following consists of three basic steps, which are as follows:
Become An Expert
The first step in being able to even attempt building your following is to become an expert in your products. Customers look for a partner when dealing with a Sales Professional, therefore you need to know your product inside out, as well as how that product will benefit the customer. Being an expert goes so far as knowing more about why your customer is going to want to use your product when they do. This will provide them with value and they will be more inclined to give you the call.
Get Your Message Out
After you have become an expert, then you need to get your message out. This involves significant prospecting, which will give you the opportunity to begin focusing on your core prospects. Calling, emailing, and utilizing social media are all ways to get your message out, as well as let people in your area know you are the expert in your field.
In order to get dentists to my events I needed to do fax blasts, mailers, phone calls, and drop off brochures. This leg work at the beginning of the building is how you fill the sales pipeline with potential true fans. Only after this can you win the respect of prospective customers.
The last and most important piece of gaining true fans is establishing value. This means not dropping in to see customers or prospects to “check in”. This is a waste of all parties time. This means providing insight into their businesses, industries, as well as you products on a regular basis. There are two key ways to implement this strategy.
The simplest way to begin providing value to customers and prospects is to begin a weekly newsletter of company and industry updates. I did not go this route with Dentists because they are notorious for not checking their email, but this is a quick and easy tool to begin the process. This will consist of either collecting industry articles, videos, or how-to’s to provide valuable content, or it will be writing original content. The second may prove to be more fruitful, because you will learn immensely about your market, as well as show your customers you are an expert. This means establishing credibility.
The next way to begin building your following is to focus on a small set of customers and get to know them very well. Their business, their personality, and how you can help them. It is better to begin with a few high quality targets than very few low quality. Provide your potential “True Fans” with something special, whether it be a “Lunch and Learn”, special promotion, or insider information they can use to better their business. These are all gestures that say “I want your business”.
By incorporating the concept of 1,000 true fans in your sales strategy, and building high value with your customers, you can begin to build your following.
Good luck and good selling!