Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Many years ago, I learned a very valuable sales lesson, that I want to share today.  The example I'll use involved turning an initial inquiry worth only few hundred dollars into an over $25,000 order--and it all started with one simple question.  Before I share though, please know that I post this not to brag but as a way of sharing something I learned through experience--with hopes it'll help you too, as it has me. So here we go.

A client, whom I'll call Mary had called me to get a price on 1,000 sets of index dividers.  Being of service mindset and having a curious mind, I responded saying "Mary, thanks, I'll be glad to get a price over to you very shortly.  If you don't mind though, may I please ask you a question.  That is, how do you plan to use these, what will you do with them? Upon hearing this, she explained that they are in the process of putting together 1,000 conference binders for an upcoming event.  Of course, this lead me to then say "Wow, that's fantastic Mary. Please tell me more about these binders and how you're going about getting them produced."

Mary went onto explain that they will be getting tabs through us, ordering the empty binders through another company, copying through yet another outfit, and then she and her staff will all get together in their conference room and assemble them.   Knowing she is super busy, I asked if it would help her if she could get all that done in one-place, i.e. one-stop shop.  Given my relationship, I even then mentioned we do such work now and if she would be open to us doing the whole thing for her.  Long and short of it is that what started out as a small order turned into a major project for us, and over time more such project followed, from this client as well as many others.  In the case of Mary, she won through convenience and we generated more revenue and profits for ourselves.  Both won. Win-Win.

For me, two key lessons came out of this experience.  One, be curious, don't assume anything, ask probing questions for they can and often do lead to greater learning and opportunities. Secondly, clients don't always know and/or remember what all services and products their suppliers provide.  They have so much on their minds that they are not sitting their thinking about you.  Therefore you must continually inform and educate your clients (and prospects too), to maintain top of mind awareness. So when they do need your services, you want to be the first one they think of.  

So let me ask you, are you leaving money on the table, missing sales opportunities that are right in front of you? If you are, what steps can you start to take right now, what probing question can you start to ask, with the ultimate goal of uncovering opportunities, better serving your clients, and in the process making more money for yourself, and your company?

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