The Winhall General Store, my friend, Mike...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Thu, May 09, 2013

winhall market resized 600Late Friday afternoon, I managed to squeeze into the Winhall General Store minutes before closing time and found myself waiting in line beside my friend, Mike, to order takeout.

I had just driven 453 miles from Rochester keeping my speed at a steady 73-just below the NY State Police level-in order to make a 5:00 PM meeting in Vermont during which I kept a constant eye on my watch to make sure that I didn't get locked out of the general store since, at this time of year, there are no other options in the valley for food.  Having spent the last 48 hours constantly "on" running one of our Sales Management Boot Camps for High Tech Rochester and TEN, I was looking forward to going to the house, eating my Winhall General Store homemade meatloaf, drinking a glass of wine and answering two days of stacked up emails.  With a couple of early morning meetings and a few hours of work scheduled for early Saturday, I then planned to continue the weekend commute-another 180 miles-back to the NH beach.   Somewhat of a typical weekend-lots of activity, too many overburdened schedules that are always impossible to keep and a never-successful plan to squeeze every minute out of every day.  Actually, in my crazy world...just the way I like it.

Back to Mike.  I met Mike four of five years ago when I needed someone to help me bring down a couple of very large trees in the woodlot up on the ridge. Mike's in his mid 30's, a dependable, diligent worker, and is one of those individuals you find everywhere in Vermont, who lives for the primary purpose of "living in Vermont".  Mike takes long walks deep into the woods in every possible weather condition, fishes the streams, hikes until he's tired and then sleeps in the open without blankets or tents, and at sunlight the next day he somehow finds his way back to where he left his always-rusting-out pickup.  

Basically, Mike's "a helper".  He does odd jobs, rakes my lawns, comes to help cut down trees, and paints a bit here and there.  An uncomplicated, soulful, take-one-day-at-a-time nice guy, who plays off and on in a bluegrass band that gathers whenever the mood hits them in a barn up in the village of Jamaica.  Mike is well...just Mike, and I enjoy being around him because he's so totally different than me, and he gives me great advice about my woodlot.  Mike's out walking in the woods taking in every sound and shadow, and I'm speeding down the highway talking on the phone and listening for the high pitched beeps of the radar detector.

Most importantly, what I do know about Mike is that I can totally trust him to get things done without my being there.

Just a month ago, I had called Mike and left a message to ask him to rake the yards and the gardens as soon as the snow melted.  Not an insignificant amount of work and certainly work that would have taken me days to do and, once again, would have resulted in putting my shoulder out of commission for weeks.  When I came back to Vermont two weeks later, everything was raked, all the debris had disappeared and there was a piece of paper wedged into the door with just the number "75" on it.  I mailed Mike a check for $100.  Mike was very pleased since he received more money than he had asked for.  I was very pleased since the price was right, but, more importantly, the work was done with perfect satisfaction, and I could check one more thing off my ever-growing To Do list. 

Just the way that commerce should be done.  Both sides of the transaction feel very good about the end result, the price becomes a non-issue and both sides end a project looking forward to the next opportunity to work together again as soon as possible. That's the way it's supposed to be.  So the question for all of us to consider is just how many or our customer relationships are like that where we are the "Trusted Advisor" and not merely "The Vendor"?

Sales Trusted AdvisorsIf you think about rungs on a ladder with "Vendor" at the bottom and "Trusted Advisor" at the top, the in-between three rungs stepping up from "Vendor" would be "Approved Supplier", "Solutions Provider", and "Strategic Contributer".  With that in mind, think about where you and your company would stack up on the rungs with the majority of your customers?  CSO Insights shows the graphic to the left defining the world cutely between whether you want to have Sleepless Nights as a "Vendor" or Successful Years as a "Strategic Contributor" or "Trusted Advisor".   

"Trusted Advisors" always get more business because they're simply just that..."trusted".  I trust Mike.  I would give him the keys to my house.  He trusts me that I'm always going to pay him quickly and call on him again and again to do other work.  More importantly, I'm going to refer him to my friends.  People who trust me.  Mike has no marketing budget.  He doesn't have a phone except a battered old cheap Nokia so he isn't going to blog or tweet about his work.  He doesn't even have a business card.  Just basic Word-of-Mouth Marketing in its most simple form.

With this concept in your head, take 60 minutes today to list down...

  • How many of my customers regard me as their Trusted Advisor?
  • How many regard my company as the same?
  • What specifically will I do to move 25% of my customers to TA status?

And then create a very specific Q2-Q3 activity plan detailing exactly what you're going to do become the TA.  This is a week-by-week activity list between now and Labor Day.  Activities could be anything, but they need to get beyond the old relationship-selling thing and push on your Value Propostion so that you are truly going to become trusted or at least become a Strategic Contributor to your customer's objectives for the balance of the year.  Here's a few activity ideas just to get your head into this.  Your ideas will be much more robust than this, I'm sure.

  • Set up a multi-manager meeting to review their business plans for the balance of the year.  During that meeting, explain exactly what you have planned for them.  Be transparent and totally open.
  • Get them to visit your facility.  Introduce them to a working session with all of your senior team.  Do the same with bringing your boss or your CEO to their location.  Not to show off, but to inform them about industry trends that you are experiencing.

    Rule of thumb:  The higher you sell in any organization, the more those executives want to hear about what you're seeing in the industry.  Market research, trends, and anecdotal comments-all very valuable information.
  • Ask them about their longer term objectives and their primary operating objectives for the balance of the year into 2014.  For example, if you knew that they were planning to acquire a company over the next 18 months, would you position yourself and your company's products differently?

Sales and Trust  You want to be like least in the Trust thing, and you
have absolutely nothing to lose here and everything to gain !

  Now, let's go out and sell some stuff.


 Jack Derby 


Head Coach
Linked In and Sales

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