Doing Things Differently - A Story You Can Use

To sell more, be different in ways that matter to buyers.

To sell more, you must capture the attention of more buyers. To capture attention, be a disrupter. Not a troublemaker, but someone who does things differently in a way that enriches the buyers.

Here's a real-life example:

Once upon a time, I took a job as the Portland branch manager for U.S. Elevator Corp. My job was to sell elevators, elevator repairs and maintenance contracts. The Portland branch served Oregon, southwest Washington and Idaho. I had just moved back from Phoenix. Portland was home to me, and I was happy to get back. I knew my new employer's products and reputation. I was anxious to get to work.

Danger Lies Just Beneath the Surface

I overlooked one tiny detail: I neglected to examine U.S. Elevator's reputation in the Portland market. It seems that the previous branch manager burned every architect, developer and contractor in the region. Then, he left town without leaving a forwarding address. I was his replacement. Lucky me.

As soon as I began making introductory phone calls, I learned that I was the new face of the most hated elevator company in the Pacific Northwest. Architects hung up on me. Contractors invited me to come to their offices, so they could scream at me.

At that point, I had two goals:

  1. Diffuse the anger of my customers, which would then allow me to...
  2. Meet my sales quota.

Swimming with the Sharks

I met with every architect, developer and contractor who didn't hang up on me. The routine was always the same. They yelled at me for five minutes, usually with their employees watching. They cursed. They threatened. They gave me vivid examples of the misdeeds of the person I replaced. I sat through it, because I wanted to let all the steam out of the kettle.

Once they calmed down, I asked them if it felt good to get it all out. They smiled and proudly said, "Yes." I pointed out that I didn't do those things to them personally, but I recognized that my company had wronged them and I was its representative. They agreed. Then, they started to feel bad about verbally attacking me personally.

A Chance

At that point, I asked them to give me a chance. I pointed out a small construction project where they hadn't yet signed a contract with an elevator company. I asked them to skip the bidding process and give my company the job. I gave them a price we both knew was competitive. I promised to complete it on time, without any surprises. In most cases, they agreed. What began as shouting and verbal abuse, ended with a signed contract. They threatened personal harm if I didn't deliver. My company's regional construction manager became my new best friend. I always had materials and construction crews on site when I needed them.

I kept my promises to my customers. I redeemed my company's reputation. In my second year on the job, I increased my sales by 480 percent! Over half of that sales volume was privately negotiated with customers who trusted me.

The Moral of the Story

I got my customers' attention by doing something unusual: I listened to them blow their tops. Then, I asked for a small way to demonstrate my integrity. When I proved it on a small scale, I asked to privately negotiate major deals. Sales and profits went up by almost five times in my second year.

When you are looking for ways to attract the attention of more buyers, think of something you can do that your competitors aren't doing. Stand out in ways that matter to your customers. Watch your sales grow.