We live in an age of countless sales resources. We have thousands of courses, apps, and software programs at our disposal. Because the ease of access to these tools, it appears that anyone can be a sales superstar, right? Not really.
The truth is, sales success takes more than reading a few books or attending a few sales seminars. It all starts in the mind. Your mindset, much like a skill set, takes time to develop. As Gerhard Gschwandtner said, “The single most important element that will determine your success in sales and in life is your mindset.”
Luckily, mindset is something you can create with optimism and openness to different perspectives or proven frameworks.
One such framework is The 3 Cs of Sales. I learned about it by accident from a guy named Andy.
Andy was the king of furniture sales in my area. The best part is that he never came off as a slick salesperson. We worked together for three years. Every Monday I would walk by Andy’s desk and see While You Were Out pink slips piled up on his desk from his days off. Since he already had calls and appointments lined up, he was sure to make some good money for the week. I was so jealous.
The strange thing is that in our job, appointments weren’t even necessary!
We worked for a high-end furniture retailer in the Northwest. On top of an hourly wage, you could earn an extra 10%-20% of all the merchandise we sold.
Since I was the lowest in sales I did every thing I could to become a better salesman. After examining all the stuff I learned from books and hanging out with Andy, I saw a definite pattern. It can be summed up in three timeless principles.
The 3 Cs of Sales
At the time, Andy never really had a succinct way to tell me what he did because he never thought about teaching it to someone. I decided to extract the gems of his advice and simplify it for myself. It completely aligned with all the sales books I was reading at the time, but it made more sense when Andy said it because I was seeing it in context.
Basically, there only three ways to get more clients: Cash, Connections, and Comfort. I called it “The 3 Cs of Sales.”
Cash is king, but not in Andy’s eyes. He said that too often business people want to buy their way to the top using marketing tactics. They take out expensive ads, they build expensive websites, or they create fancy business cards. Nowadays, you can buy your way to the top with pay-per-click ads on Google. None of that mattered to Andy. In fact, he always said that advertising was like sex: only losers pay for it.
It was shocking to hear all of this, but I was willing to suspend judgment. He said that buying your customer’s attention was built upon a shaky foundation. He recommended that I discard the first C and just focus on the other two.
In my mind, Andy could have been the mayor of our city. It’s like he knew everyone and they were always happy to see him. People that came in to see him were friends or friends of friends. A lot of people were meeting him for the first time, but he came so highly recommended it was like they already knew him. He had trained people about the whole process and his results. Half his selling was done by satisfied customers that promoted him when he wasn’t even around.
This was a form of word-of-mouth that was nothing like I’d ever seen. If social media had been big back then, he would have owned the company by now. He would have gone viral for sure. He always branded himself as “Andy, the furniture guy” so people knew what he was about. I’d here it all the time: “You’re the furniture guy, right? I heard you’re the go-to guy for this.”
Andy was never one to gloat, but every time he heard something like this, he’d just slowly nod his head and turn it back on the customer. He’d say, “I am. Tell me about your house.” From the start, it was easy to talk to Andy.
But let’s say you haven’t built that impressive book of power influencers. The good news is that half of Andy’s referrals were from highly satisfied customers. With this alone, the referrals kept coming in.
If Andy didn’t know you, he’d make it an effort to get to know you. That was his style. He always made people laugh and it was contagious. Andy made his way with people seem so effortless, but I think it was because he was genuinely a nice guy.
He told me that after getting people to see him, he’d just build comfort, be a good listener, and solve their problems. It wasn’t rocket science. And yet it put me on a long road to trial and error to get it right.
Learning The Skill Of Selling
In time, I learned to sell and network like Andy. No, I never surpassed him on the sales leaderboard, but a few months I came close. Overall Andy was a natural at this and a textbook extrovert. Me, I tried as hard as I could, breaking out of my introverted shell to make friends and sales. In the end, I did pretty well for myself and set new store records with Andy until we both left the industry. (The word is that he sells yachts now.)
To be honest, I used to hate sales but it’s a necessity in business. I wish that I could create something so amazing that it would practically sell itself. Companies like Apple and Porsche do this sort of thing with relative ease. However, I’m like most people. I have to really try to sell.
So how can anyone develop these selling machine skills? It’s not easy and it’s not quick. In fact, it takes a lot of time and dedication. But if you’re willing to do it, there are just a few basic principles to keep in mind and you’ll be a cash pro.
A Practical Focus For Selling
Of these 3 C’s, the first one is hard if you don’t have money. The second one only works if you’re well-connected. This can come in the form of family, work, or organization connections. Where I live there is a famous health club. But really it’s a private country club disguised as an after school program for kids and a gathering spot for affluent parents. If you’re lucky to be a part of this group, it’s the epitome of Cash, Connections, and Comfort.
However, some aren’t so lucky in business. Maybe you didn’t grow up surrounded with rich resources and padded bank accounts. Maybe you live in the middle of nowhere and don’t know very many people at all.
All of that doesn’t matter.
The last C is the most important one of all. Why? Because technically the first two are dependent on it. To make money, you must know people.
Most people in sales know the adage that customers only buy from people that they know, like, and trust. The final C puts you on the path to accomplish this. Sure it takes longer than the first two, but you’re building a solid client base using it. And one day, you’ll have all three C’s at your disposal — that’s where the real power is. When you’re at that level, it feels like you get lucky a lot, and all the lights seem to turn green for you.
Really, it’s just influential people helping each other out in mutually beneficial relationships. Love it or hate it, it’s how the world works. No one builds an empire alone. That was why it seemed so easy for Andy. He figured out who he needed to network with and built relationships with them over time. In the beginning, he probably worked 80 hour weeks to get to his 40. So though it seemed easy, it probably wasn’t.
Putting The 3 C’s To Work
1. Be Famous For Something — One of the most popular courses on Udemy for freelancers by far is by the author Seth Godin. In several instances, he explains why it’s crucial to master your craft and how to promote your personal brand. We’ve seen this all before, but it works. For example, the computer repair expert might say “I’m the gal you call when your computer crashes”. A copywriter might say “I’m the guy you call when you need a sales page that converts to cash.” Or quite simply, “I’m the furniture guy.”
The power is in creating a repeatable sound bite for yourself. Make sure it quickly gets to the high-demand solution you offer. As people start spreading this around, you slowly start to build a reputation for solving something specific. Don’t worry about all the other things you can provide people, just address the problem your ideal client really needs. You can always cross-sell later.
For example, who is Rand Fishkin? He’s the guy you call for all your questions about SEO. Over the years, he has created helpful videos on every SEO topic you can think of, all for free. They are overwhelmingly helpful. He has tons of other services he sells, but he’s famous for his free white board illustrations about SEO. If you talk to people in the SEO world, it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear something like “Oh, I learned it from the SEO guy, Rand Fishkin.” So when people think of SEO, what name do you think comes to mind?
2. Develop Your Influencer Network — Malcolm Gladwell talks about three kinds of influencers in his book The Tipping Point: Mavens, Salesmen, and Connectors.
Mavens are another word for experts (think Drs, PhDs, authors, specialists, etc). Mavens give credibility to their subjects and so they have great influence. Having several of them on your side is vital.
Salesmen or Saleswomen are people who can talk about any idea or product and get a sale out of it. They are the masters at persuasion and marketing, so by default they are influential as well.
Finally, Connectors are people who seem to know everybody. They are well-connected to all the right people and with that, they have the power to get things done. (That’s who Andy was.)
Not only should you be building relationships with these three types of people, you should be a bit of each type of influencer yourself. Start tagging the people that fall into this category. Look at people you know and people you want to get to know.
3. Focus On ATR — ATR stands for Advancing The Relationship. People always say to “add value”. ATR is like that, but it’s a much broader strategy. I learned ATR from being an account executive for one of the top lens manufacturers in the world. My job was to spend time with at least five doctors a day trying to earn more of their business. My regional manager called this “ATR Time.” I’d do whatever I thought would advance the relationship with each client. For the most part, it was clear to me how to get into their inner circle: make them more money.
ATR meant adding value in a way that was relevant to clients. Sometimes that meant doing indirect activities like training their staff on certain procedures for free. Other times it meant ghost writing articles for a doctor’s website. And on occasion, ATR meant playing a little golf or going to their kid’s wedding — whatever moved the needle forward.
Great relationships are built on lots of trust and value. The more you do that, the more clients do business with you. It’s the reason why your competition can’t just waltz into your territory and take it over. It’s how the old boy’s club built their empires. But this is your network and your club. If you can be incredibly useful to someone, they’ll find a reason to keep you around and usually that translates into more business.
4. Be A Giver — In professor Adam Grant’s book Give and Take, he says that givers consistently win the long-game over takers. Do you play the give and take game? Are you always keeping a record of reciprocity? Grant doesn’t think that’s necessary nor beneficial.
You have to give before you get, and the frequency counts too. Often times, you might not get anything back in return. But for the people who do give back, that demonstrates a higher-quality relationship. People will remember you.
So can anyone develop these selling machine skills? Yes, but it’s not easy and it’s not quick. There’s no magic bullet to getting more sales. You have to be good with people and know your stuff. But if you’re willing to persist, keep the Three C’s of Selling in mind and you’ll be closing tons of sales in no time.
- Create three separate lists and put all the influential people you know under each category: Salesmen, Mavens, or Connectors. Network to find more of these kinds of people.
- Contact ten of these influencers just to touch base. Offer to help (ATR). Because of the law of reciprocity, eventually they’ll offer to help you out too.
- When you are out, learn what people do and briefly tell them what you do. Plant the seed and don’t push it. Play the long game. Being an interesting, funny, and likable person is valuable in itself. If they don’t do business with you sooner than you’d like, commit to building comfort over time.
- List out your top clients. What are ways you can advance your relationship with them? Ask them, then do it.
The original and shorter version of this article appears in Selling Power.
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About The Author: Arlie Peyton is a writer and coach who loves to help entrepreneurs and creatives lead remarkable lives through the power of story. Download his free business tools at arlie.peyton.com.