As a kid, I’d hear, “This is going to hurt you worse than it hurts me,” just before getting my rearward region spanked into next week. Whenever I used to hear this phrase — which was shockingly regular — I used to think, “Then why do it?” I mean, can’t we spare some pain for both of us by overlooking that little melted crayon in the Easy Bake Oven?

Well, it didn’t work that way. I found that out when I had children. It was one of those “upside-down truths” that you appreciate with age.

Later on, my early sales training had brainwashed me into thinking that manipulation and aggression were actually the more tender side of selling. When various closes and techniques were being discussed one day, an older, quite wealthy salesman halted the conversation with, “I don’t sell — I give people reasons to buy.”

From that moment on, it stuck. My whole idea of sales got turned upside down (or right-side up). Earning trust, giving useful buying information, and truly counseling people with the good and bad side of a product or service came much easier. Closing a sale was more often the work of the customers themselves. This eliminated the anxiety of overselling and gave sincerity to the “congratulations” for making a good decision.

“This approach allows you to be true-faced, not two-faced,” said the wealthy salesman, making a comment more powerful than the first, proving he was ahead of his time. Ignoring this shift can kill your online and offline sales.

That path led Hudson, Ink, and me into the world of two-step marketing; first, getting a request from a customer for more information, and then following that with a conversation that would lead to a sale, or not. Either way was/is fine.

Another bit of upside-down truth: You get the sale by creating a customer, not the other way around. Web marketing further confirms the success of this buying pattern shift. Consumers can access mountains of information that didn’t formerly exist. Their newfound empowerment has led to a sometimes hard-to-swallow set of old sales and marketing dogmas. The hard-driving, “close early, close often” salesperson is increasingly frustrated. Websites that employ sales overkill are labeled spam-like and should be avoided.

Sites like Zappos, Amazon, and even Walmart realize that transparency aids the sales process. Relationships are built before the sale and increase closing (conversion) rates. Openness and resistance to “hard sell” also increase referral rates and positive online reviews.

Customer retention results soar with gentle, non-sales-like re-contact. This is why we’ve seen customer retention sales absolutely explode. People want the relationship and reward it handsomely.

Contractors who invest in customer retention are getting excellent returns now. (Eight percent of your total marketing budget toward customer retention can trounce any other 8 percent in any other media with its hand tied behind its back.)

Lesson: When you craft and cultivate relationships, you forgo hard selling, though your sales increase. There are no closes, there are only openings; you merely continue the conversation, continue advising, and gain more business — faster — as a result of being there for them.

Oh, the remaining words spoken to me by the wealthy salesman proved to be sage advice. “Salespeople don’t sell the most, advisors do.” More than a pithy comment, it’s true. Confirmed by in a recent study. Advisors outsell salespeople four to one. Be an advisor. Then, you, too, can be true-faced.

Questions: Does your marketing talk more about you or about how you solve customers’ problems? (Change the we stuff to you stuff. Don’t be afraid to give free advice.)

Is your customer retention marketing budget more or less than 8 percent of your total marketing? (If below 4 percent, you likely have a steady stream of forgotten customers going to the competition.)

Do you have old-style salespeople or old-style marketing that are sales-focused and performing less than they did just three years ago? Make the shift.

Publication date: 9/28/2015

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