It was a Monday.
December 29th to be exact.
Just a few weeks ago when I was reviewing some of the people I had contacted in the past year and some that I was going to contact for 2015.
I’m talking about business here. In my world that means advertising and marketing both radio and online. But my style isn’t that of a pushy sales guy. I focus on relationships. For the long haul, not something short term.
Two particular conversations with two folks online come to mind as I write this.
The first was with a young guy who does web work and also oversees the marketing for an upscale car company. “J” and I met a few years previously when we were both involved with a local TEDx Fort Wayne event. In 2014 we connected and I helped him by selling him advertising for an event he created for the car company. It was short term, not the way I usually work, and not the way I wanted to work.
However “J” had a plan and I needed to work with his plan instead of attempting to force him to follow my plan. Afterward, “J” wasn’t available very much and I was concerned that it was a one shot deal. But then I simply focused on the relationship. A couple of months had passed and we connected again in the late fall about doing some brainstorming for 2015. These were just online communications, but then on December 29th, “J” contacted me. He wanted to meet to discuss plans for 2015. Which we are now working on. This was not a lost customer, it was simply a matter of timing. My time table wasn’t as important as his. That’s a lesson all people in sales need to remember and practice.
The other conversation on December 29th also took place online. “T” is this guys name. I first met “T” in 1998 when we both worked on the air at a couple of radio stations in Fort Wayne. 5 years later, we worked together again, this time in the sales world of radio. “T” was my manager at first. Of course I outlasted everyone except some of the jocks at that station and over the years kept in touch with “T”. He is very passionate about what he does and for the last couple of years he has handled the advertising for a home builder. But I have known “T” when he was not on top of the world too.
I saw his company on an account list last year and in November asked my manager if they ever did business with “T”. I was told that no one wanted to work with him. My co-workers were frustrated with “T” and after multiple meetings, gave up. I asked if I could have a try at working with “T” and was given the go-ahead.
My December 29th conversation with “T” was done entirely on Facebook’s private messenger feature. I got to hear “T”‘s side of the story. Man, was he frustrated. He said all anyone wanted to do was argue with him and no one really listened to what he wanted. They all had their own agenda and were trying to push him into something other than what he wanted.
I listened. I offered to help. I empathized. All I wanted to do is sit down with “T” and see if I can help him with his company advertising. We will meet in a couple of days. I have nothing specific to sell him at this point. Instead I need to find out what he wants to buy. But before we even get to that stage, “T” is going to get to rant and rave to my face about how things didn’t go well in the past. Then we are going to see what can be done to repair that relationship. “T” is not mad at me, I wasn’t the one who he has dealt with in the past. But I can see if I can make it better and perhaps one day help him spend his advertising money in a way that he is comfortable.
I won’t get there by arguing. Or by trying to push him into something he doesn’t want. And there is a possibility that “T” will not spend any money with me. If he does, he could become one of my best customers. Not just because of the money he spends. But because he will then recommend me to others, if I treat him right.
First things first, as my Dad would say.
Don’t be afraid. And don’t forget about those customers you think you lost. Find out why and do what you need to, to build that relationship.