I remember years ago when I first started in the sales profession, one of my mentors took me aside and gave me some words of wisdom.
He told me to always remember that in the sales world, there is no commodity more valuable than time. Every minute of every day is essential to a sales person. Lost time translates to lost opportunities and lost opportunities translate to lost sales. Simply put, his advice was to never waste time!
As a division manager for a self storage company, I now have a sales staff of my own and it’s my turn to give advice. Over the years many recycled versions of my mentor’s words have managed to find their way from my lips to the ears of my young staff members. However, I’ve put a slightly new twist on one particular piece of advice I always give my sales people: Never be afraid to waste time!
Did my mentor give me bad advice? Was he wrong? No, not at all. I understood what he meant then and I understand even better what he meant now. Time is money! To a sales person, nothing can be more valuable. What my mentor was trying to tell me is that the way I chose to utilize my time would be critical to my success. He was trying to make the point that chewing up large chunks of time in non- sales activities would be a very bad thing to do and he was right. He was also right about something else he told me; He said that selling was very much a matter of relationship development.
Therefore, I’ve summarized the lessons I’ve learned into three-part approach which has come to be known as my “wasting time” philosophy:
Take a lot of time to talk to your customers and get to know them well. In my business, customer relations are extremely important. They are our storage unit tenants and, as such, stay with us over prolonged periods of time. Selling our product is only a small part of what we need to do. The larger part is to sell ourselves. This means building and maintaining a strong and lasting relationship with our customer.
As a salesman, I often spend a huge chunk of my workday doing what others may define as “wasting time”. I love to seek out my tenants and simply ask about how they are doing that day. I am engaging them. I am actually investing it in carefully constructing a foundation of trust and loyalty between us. I’ve found that if I get too hung up on imposing time boundaries on these encounters, then the relationship suffers.
Customers appreciate the time you give them, so it is very important to avoid looking busy and distracted. You should do just the opposite: make it look like you are “wasting time” with them. They already know you are busy so the more time you “waste” with them, the more important they will feel.
Always remind yourself that you have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, you should be doing twice as much listening as talking. When you do talk, ask try to ask open-ended questions to learn as much as you can about your customer. I specify my questions to invite my customer to tell me about herself and what is going on in her life. This way, I am never giving a sales pitch, I am simply suggesting an answer to a problem my customer may be having.
Believe it or not, this is all part of a sales strategy. This strategy works wonders because it gives customers what they really want; a feeling that they matter and that they are important to my company.
Art Gould is a division manager with Self Storage Company, which operates a group of websites, including a San Diego self-storage locator. Though busy, Art enjoys meeting new people and clients when traveling between sites from San Francisco to the Sacramento self-storage centers.