After two successful careers as a small business owner in both the Martial Arts/Fitness Industries and currently in the Financial Services Industries, I can say with a high degree of certainty that these two industries are far more similar than most may think.
How can that be you ask? One industry gets the clients sweating, punching, kicking, lunging and doing push-ups, while the other is the complete opposite by looking after the bottom line, building portfolios, acquiring real estate holdings and obtaining lines of credit. Totally different, right?
Nope- actually they’re the same. Why? Simple- it’s the people, not the products.
Everything is Related
Each of these industries is about you, the business owner, having the ability to get to know your prospects and clients better than they know themselves. Each industry is about building rapport and helping your customers achieve their goals so that THEY can find success (not you by the way). In one area the product is fitness, the other is finance. In one area the feature is push-ups or kickboxing, the other is low fees or great rates.
But the true intersection of the Venn diagram between these two monster-sized industries, is the benefits that each have: solutions to problems, attainment of a desired outcome, meeting a need and gaining a sense of confidence that comes from the use a certain product.
In both industries I was able to find success by creating and following some very simple guidelines. Here are a few:
- It’s About People, Not Products: if you focus on the product and not the person in front of you, you lose. Today, people can feel this coming a mile away from a salesperson, they know, just like you do, when a salesperson has their best interest in mind, or if they’re just trying to make a sale. Besides, most likely you have more than one product to sell, so get to know the person and that knowledge will enable you to make sure that your product is a good fit for your client. And when your customer appreciates that, you both win.
- Get Curious About The Person: the more focused questions you can ask, then the more you’ll be able to know about the client’s situation, which helps to ensure that you and your product are right for the person. If you sell someone something they don’t need, just because you need a sale, you lose.
Getting curious is easy, just ask the prospect as many open-ended questions as you can about themselves. Getting your customer to open up is not only easier than you might think but will allow you to close far more sales than if you talk about how cool you are. Use questions like “tell me about how you…” “Tell me why you felt…” “Walk me through your thought process on….” “That sounds interesting, tell me more about….”. If you’ve never done this style of questioning, just try using one or two open-ended questions with a few customers and see what happens.
Sales is Just a Problem to Be Solved
When your client opens up and provides you detailed information, all you have to do is collect the facts and tie together what it is they are concerned about (the problem) to one or more of your products (the solutions). Don’t just jump into a product, take a few minutes and use phrases like “wow, that must be frustrating“, or “OMG- I’d be irritated also”. To discuss your product, just start in with “I think I may have something that can help, but I’m not sure. I’ll tell you about it and if you feel like it could solve your issues, let me now.” By gathering the needed info and making a suggestion on a product that truly fits the need, you both win.
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Remember: People love to buy but they hate to be sold. I’ve found that statement to be very true as I hate to be “sold” by a fast-talking salesperson. If you don’t give your client’s needs the proper respect, you lose.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to skill practice with a coworker or your manager. That’s right, good old fashion role play! (stop groaning) If you hate role playing it’s because you’re not good at it. When you skill practice, you’ll quickly see both negative and positive trends in your skill set.
For instance, you or your partner will immediately see if you jump into a product because you know it will help solve the problem, but the client can’t see it will help because you didn’t pre-frame the product properly by explaining the benefits. Skill practice will instantly highlight where you need work and what abilities you have down. And the more your practice, the more you and your clients will win.
- Stay in Touch: Most companies already have a method established for their employees to reach out and stay in touch with the customer base, but if you don’t sweat it, it’s easier than most people think.
First consider the various ways to contact your customer base, which thankfully is limited: email, phone, mail and events. If you don’t have a monthly/weekly e-newsletter to email out, then get to it this week! Constant contact and other businesses like it will fit the bill. Easy to use, easy to read and have an amazing amount of data for you to learn and grow from. (do this now if you haven’t) Customers should get a semi-annual or annual call just to check in and say thank you. Use a quarterly or semi-annual promotion as means to mail then a letter or card. Also, host an annual event that you can invite your clients and vendors to. Spend a few marketing dollars here and you’ll love the results that come from these things down the road.
Remember, by staying relevant and top of mind for all past clients, you’ll find that your success will increase each year.