I sold product in an industry where long-term relationships with clients had value. You might literally work with an account for the full span of your career, no one-and-done, no good-bye and thanks for the residuals. But we had three competitors for the same business, and there were only so many ways to slice a pie, and everyone was after a bigger slice. One way I differentiated myself was to institute half-year or quarterly business reviews, but I also stayed top-of-mind by doing what I called KTPs, or Kitchen Table Projects, referring to the nights when I’d claim the kitchen table to put together my “leavings,” items that I’d take to customers when I had no new products or services to present. There was an expectation that sales reps show up weekly at meaningful accounts, but just showing up to howdy bub or share rumors was not my thing, so I found other ways to remind them that I wanted their business. I also loved knowing that my competition would see my leavings and know that the footsteps they were hearing were mine.
When I went into management, I wrote a booklet: “It’s not Always About the Product: The Little Dictionary of Relationship Sales.” Some of the entries from over twenty years ago:
Buy Subscriptions, Copy Articles: Subscribe to magazines dedicated to the art of printing. When you see something that might interest your customer or apply specifically to a niche they serve, copy it and give it to them.
Still applies, but now they’re hyperlinks.
Call Deep: Call deep in an account. Remember the names of people other than the buyer. Prepress employees become salespeople, salespeople become owners, receptionists become buyers. Never plow over or ignore employees to get to the decision maker, because those people could be making the decisions in the future. It’s also the polite and right way to behave.
Cards: Don’t forget the art of writing. On paper. If a customer has won an award or the company has hit a goal, drop them a note of congratulations.
Still applies. More today than ever in this social media, text-heavy world.
Food, Glorious Food: Can’t beat it. It’s a door-opener.
Still applies. Donuts? Chocolate? Kombucha? Not 100% sure on that Kombucha …
Hyperlinking: Learn how to hyperlink a website address. This is the modern equivalent of the copied article.
Wow! I was a futurist!
New Sales Reps: Help train your customers’ new sales reps. Teach them, help them, bring your sales manager out to lunch with them, present them with a “Welcome to Sales” package with everything they’ll need, i.e. Tums, lint brush, Starbuck’s coupons, Altoid mints, a roll of quarters (huh?), a map marked with good public restrooms, individually packaged handi-wipes.
Some obsolete notions in the package, but helping to train rookies can gain their loyalty.
After presenting a package to a new sales rep, she quietly pulled me aside and showed me the handi-wipes that I’d provided for lunch-in-the-car clean-up. She wanted me to know that I’d mistakenly given her feminine cleansing wipes.
“Oh, honey,” I said, “you can never be too prepared.”
August 3, 2021