Every industry and channel has its larger than life characters. They’re the Bill Brasky types that we all tell stories about at industry functions when they’re not there, either as an inspiration or as a warning to others. If they are there, there’s an excellent chance that they’re the ones telling the story.
One of my favorite stories-with-a-lesson comes from my time selling furniture. There’s a French Canadian sales rep that’s well known in the furniture industry for being the hardest-working guy in the business. Let’s call him René. The story goes that René came across a furniture brand he really admired, so he did his homework, found out where their office was and the names of the key executives. He paid them a visit and used every trick from Cold Calling 101 to get in the door and get a sit-down with the company President.
So he says to the President (in his endearing French accent): “I came to see you because I like what you’re doing and I would really like to represent your lines.”
The President of the furniture maker laughed and said, “René, I’m glad to hear you say that, because you’ve been repping our lines for nearly eleven years now!”
Although it sounds hard to believe, you really can have too many clients. Just ask René. For the rest of us, if we aspire to ever reach that point we need the personal touch to generate referral business.
I love referrals. In fact, I’m guilty of never shutting up about it. Anyone who knows me has heard me say “Referral business paid for my house.” And my second-favorite business-related movie line after “Coffee is for closers” is what Dicky Fox, Jerry McGuire’s mentor said: “The key to this business is PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS!”
In fact, let’s pin the cliché-o-meter with one more: If you take care of people, they’ll take care of you. I learned that in retail, and by taking a personal interest in people, meeting their needs, and turning customers into clients, I created bonds that led a small horde people to follow me, first from one location to another, and then from one retailer to another. When I moved into custom, some of them even transformed from box buyers to system buyers.
Great dealers get that, and make it work. When I was first hired at Systems Inc., I was supposed to beat the street and drum up new business from new builders. However my employer already had a twenty year backlog of repeat and referral business that also needed to be serviced. So in reality I spent about 20 percent of my time looking for new business and 80 percent serving the needs of existing loyal clients.
If you’re amazing, not only will your clients open their wallets, they’ll tell their friends to as well. If you already know this, then good job. If you don’t, then try it and see for yourself.