"People don’t buy because what you do is awesome. People buy because it makes them feel awesome." – Tara Gentile
In 1995, I left my position as a corporate sales manager of a Fortune 100 company to follow my dream of owning a professional martial arts studio. It was both the most exhilarating and terrifying time of my life.
When I left, I took my decade of experience and success in a large corporate environment with me. However, I soon learned that the world of entrepreneurship and small business was much different from my corporate experience in one key area - guarantee of compensation.
In the corporate world, although my compensation was ultimately predicated on my performance, if I occasionally had a bad sales call or mishandled a customer issue, I still got paid every month.
However, as a new martial arts school owner, if I was not effective in an enrollment conversation with the mother of a 9-year old, I wasn't getting paid.
This led me initially to brush up on the many sales strategies that I had learned in my corporate experience or learn new techniques of persuasion to be used on prospective students and their parents.
I had nominal success at first, until I ran across a mentor that shared with me one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned........
Shortly afterwards, a woman called our studio to inquire about lessons for her 10-year old son, Aaron participating in our martial arts program.
After getting the usual information about her son: his name, age and if he had ever trained in martial arts, I asked her a simple question, just wanting to know a little more about him.
"Tell me a little about your son, is he shy or is he outgoing?"
As soon as I asked that question, the conversation shifted. She began to open up and share with me that she was a single mom and was looking to support her shy son in gaining more confidence.
We spoke for several minutes about her child and the other ways we could help him through our program.
Aaron and his mom came to our school shorty after our conversation for him to partake in an introductory class. He very much enjoyed his experience with us, but his mom communicated she was looking at other martial arts schools and they may or may not be back.
I told her I understood and also gave her some things to look for in a quality program, knowing there was no guarantee they would return to our center.
A couple of weeks passed, and Aaron's mom returned to our studio to enroll her son in our program. Of course, I was very happy to accommodate her. Before we started the paperwork process, however, she looked at me a said,
"Do you know why I am enrolling my son in your school?"
"No" I stated, "but I would love to hear."
She went on to tell me of all of the other martial arts centers she had checked out, ours was the only one to ask her about her son and his needs. All of the other schools appeared only interested in telling her about how great their programs were (features) but none of them really seemed interested in her boy or how they could best serve him (benefits).
Aaron became a student in our program and stayed for almost three years.
This experience had a lasting impression on me. I clearly understood that showing interest and caring for potential students (clients) and sincerely inquiring about how I could best meet their needs was paramount to the growth and success of my business.
I have also come to realize this focus on "serving" and not "selling" others was effective in all of my other business ventures.
This week, I challenge all of us, as we are interacting in any "sales" experience to slow down and really connect with the people we are talking to.
Listen for what they are looking for and be honest about you can best serve them (even if it means being courageous enough to let them go if you truly can't meet their needs).
When the inclination to go on and on about how good you or your business surfaces, slow down, take a breath and ask yourself this question,
"How may I serve?"
Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching
PS: If you have finally decided to get moving and experience a BREAKTHROUGH in your life, check out my new program, the Mind of a Champion Breakthroughs Mini-Course.
Also receive your FREE REPORT, "The Top Ten Big Ideas to Become a Black Belt Leader!