Basic sales skills: Could you be earning more?

Several years ago, I worked in marketing for a mid-sized software company. Around the holidays, I was treated to lunch by my "photocopy guy" — the lead salesperson for the company we used to print up handouts and other inexpensive materials. Over Thai food, we talked about a million things. He started asking me questions about the other marketing materials we needed to print. Then he asked why I never requested quotes from him.

I was astonished. "You mean your company does more than just photocopying?" I asked. He explained that, although the company had started in photocopying 30 years earlier, they’d added a full set of sophisticated presses not long afterward. However, the company’s name had "copy" in it and most people still associated them with photocopying.

The sales rep asked if he could quote me on my next set of letterhead, business cards, brochures and so on. It turned out that his company could offer cheaper rates, faster turnaround and the same excellent service I already knew and trusted. He also pointed out how I could save more by changing products.

This man was an excellent sales consultant. He took the time to find out if he was meeting all my needs as a customer. And he wasn’t afraid to ask for my business.

As consultants, we sometimes get referred to customers by people who know us for our great work. The people doing the referring will often say something like, "Peter did a great set of icons for our software" or "Jane is a super strength training coach". Even though Peter and Jane may land the new client’s business, it’s possible that the client won’t realize that Peter offers a full range of graphic design services or that Jane also offers registered massage therapy.

So, from time to time, talk to your clients and find out more about them. Don’t make a big sales pitch — just find out what needs and challenges they face. You may be surprised by the opportunities before you.