We all know it’s a lot easier to sell something to someone who has bought from us before. Knowing this, I habitually make a personal contact with 5 past customers during the first month of every quarter. (By the way, that’s one terrific best practice. For me, the 20 per year is perfect. For you it might be 4 or 400, but contact those past buyers you must!)
Anyway, I had a meeting yesterday with a former customer VP Sales. We had executed a Sales Excellence Council together that ran from October of ’07 through September of ’09. Nice deal for me since most “SEC” projects, while the tend to go on forever, usually do so without YPS involvement after 12-18 months. Nice deal for him too. Otherwise it wouldn’t have lasted that long!
For whatever set of reasons, I had let the relationship lapse. We exchanged maybe a half-dozen, one-liner e-mails over that last year and a half. So today was the “let’s update each other day.” He actually blocked out 2 hours plus an hour for lunch.
The day started badly. I got caught behind a really ugly traffic accident that resulted in me arriving 45 minutes late. Cell phone contact kept THAT from being a disaster. Then, as I’m signing the guest book at the security guard station, the CEO of the company strolls into the lobby, obviously after a meeting, escorting two other guys back out the front door. “Todd,” he says. “What are you doing here? Trying to get more of my money?” Figuring my guardian angel was right there with me, I said, “Absolutely!”
Then the VP Sales walks in and we all start to gab. Next thing I know, the CEO says, “Hey you gotta’ see this…” I’ll spare you most of the detail, but we “blow” the next 70 minutes seeing the new video studio. Then the NASCAR “analysis stand” they built that has track curve, distance and contour data from every sanctioned track in the US and can correlate that info with test data from actual test runs from on-board race car sensors and identify suspension adjustments that can be the difference between “finishing 1st and 42nd.” And on and on… Darned CEOs talk too much!
Of the awesome 3 hour meeting slot with my dream client, almost 2/3 is now gone forever.
Finally get to begin the planned meeting with the VP Sales, but as sales execs tend to do, he waxed uninterruptibility eloquent right up to 15 minutes from planned meeting end. Sensing a Major-Blown-Opportunity-Waste-O-Time for me, I asked a lame question about sales constraints and followed that with an equally lame, un-quantified value proposition about how an e-Rep, starting with a radio show, can help solve the prospecting problem and communicate effectively with the customer decision network.
That’s when the magic happened.
The VP Sales tells me how he’s been reading my blog and watching my e-Rep videos and and listening to my podcasts and how it all seemed like a very compelling idea. And now the best part …dramatic pause… “You know my next meeting’s not really at 1:00, it’s actually at 2:00. Let’s go grab some barbecue so you can fill in some of the blanks.”
Let’s recap. I show up 45 minutes late. Got forgiven. Dumb luck intervenes, and I get over an hour of CEO bonding time. Great, but all of that listening to him and doing zip-a-dee-doo-dah for my immediate sales effort. 165 of my 180 minutes of serious meeting time – that’s 92-freakin’ % – is GONE.
My e-Rep saved my late, too-large, sorry butt.
My e-Rep – not me – had been hard at work for that 18 months of dead time. I had never-not-even-once talked to this sales exec about e-Rep or radio, but my e-Rep had. And my e-Rep had credibility. And my e-Rep was good. And my e-Rep was on duty 24 X 7 X 365. And my e-Rep had generated interest. And my e-Rep had qualified the guy. And now all I need to do is not blow it.
If I hadn’t built an e-Rep; i.e., the blog posts, videos, audios, Tweets, LinkedIns…, I’d have wasted an entire day. Since I DID build an e-Rep, I’ve radically improved my relationship with a CEO, and, unless I do something incredibly dumb, I’ve restarted a lucrative consulting gig with a past customer.
Want to debate me about the value of an e-Rep?