A newly-hatched bird falls out of his nest while his mother is away. The little bird wanders the forest looking for his mother. “Are you my mother?” he asks a kitten, a hen, a dog, a cow and a boat.
All of the creatures responded with the same answer, “No! I am not your mother.” Then, the little bird met… the SNORT (steam shovel). The Snort picked up the little bird and placed him in his nest just as his mother returned. The Snort was wise enough to know where the little bird could find his mother and generous enough to put the little bird back in his nest with his mother.
The moral of the story is… Be a SNORT!
How the little bird looked for his mother is how most of us were taught to find our prospective customers. We run around networking, sending emails and making cold calls asking, “Are you my customer?” Remarkably, we get the same answer that the little bird got… “No.” We keep asking the same questions and expecting different results. The problem is, sometimes someone says, “Yes, I might be your customer. Send me some brochures.” That’s right, every time someone says, “Yes” or “Maybe” we convince ourselves that all we need to do is keep asking until we find someone who says something other than, “No.” It’s the same feeling gamblers get from slot machines. Sometimes they randomly win, encouraging them to continue gambling.
So, what’s a business professional to do? How do we cure the, “Are you my customer?” trap?
Stop treating everyone like a prospect. Not everyone needs what you’re selling and more importantly, even if they do need what you offer, they don’t want to be sold. No one wants to be pressured, manipulated, coerced or discounted into buying something, even if they might need it.
Treating everyone we meet as a prospect also appears in sales funnel systems. You know, you drop one hundred leads into the top of your sales funnel. You put the leads through a series of qualifying and filtering steps to identify true prospects, while discarding the leads (the equivalent of, “No, I’m not your customer.”) that are NOT your perfect prospects. If you’re lucky, ten of the one hundred leads drop out the bottom of the funnel to become clients. More realistically, the actual success number is closer to one client per one hundred leads. That doesn't sound like a very effective process to me, nor does it sound like a pleasant way to build business relationships.
Instead, turn the funnel on its side and treat it like a megaphone. Teach and inspire one hundred referral sources to talk about you and to look for your perfect prospect. If each one of them talks to ten prospects, then you have a thousand others who know about you and have likely learned about you from someone they trust.
The cure for, “Are you my customer?” is to treat everyone you meet as referral source, NOT a prospect. Referral sources may be a SNORT. They may know exactly where to find your perfect prospect. They may likely to want to help you connect with your perfect prospect. After all, most people are willing to be good connectors when they know your business is a good fit for their colleagues and friends. But, you must have a clear, concise and repeatable message to share AND you have to ask the right questions.
Instead of asking, “Are you my customer?” ask questions that start with, “Who do you know…?” Make the rest of the question as specific as possible. Make it easy for the referral source to connect your perfect prospect with your business. The end of the question may be:
- A symptom of the problem you solve (Who do you know that has no clue if their bookkeeper is doing a good job or not?), or
- An event that triggers the need for your business (Who do you know that just had a baby and needs life insurance?),
- A specific need for your business (Who do you know that doesn't have a financial advisor?),
- The solution you provide (Who do you know that is looking for a strategic marketing program?).
Who do you know that already has a trusted relationship with your perfect prospects?