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  • Jerry Phillips

Selling an Unknown Solution

Is there a more personal choice than the coffee we drink? Some people don’t care as long as it’s hot. Others want a special formula with exotic ingredients and sizes. Years ago, when I hated coffee, I was one of the former. It was just for function, not for taste. Today, I’m more of a snob, so I’m not judging.

As I walked through an airport last Friday, I noticed there were two coffee shops within 50 feet of each other. Both had interesting names. Caviar & Bananas, and Harvest Grounds. I admit I didn’t drink coffee for either place because I had gone to a third shop before I went through security. I just found it interesting how creative the names were and the buildout of their shops. It made me think of the effort to appeal to a customer without a strong brand name.

I have sold for five companies in my career. Three companies had very strong brand names and two did not have strong names. The two that didn’t have a strong brand were much more challenging to open doors. One of those companies was my practice. I remember reaching out to a company when I initially opened my practice and the counter sales person answered the call. When I shared who I was and who I wanted to speak to, he hung up on me. It was a humbling experience. I realized that my company name would not open doors. I had to be creative and that was to work within my network and to leverage referrals and plan my calls.

I live in Austin and there are a number of startup companies that don’t have strong brand presence. I realize how difficult it must be to reach out and start a conversation without being known. You can have the best product that drives the best return on investment, but without a strong sales process, the product never gets seen. Your calls must be planned so when someone does have interest, you can align with them.

The lesson I learned was to make it about the customer, and I must be meticulous about planning my calls. The first thing I do is define what I want to say when they answer. What is the purpose of my interaction with the prospect. I want to have a primary and secondary objective for the call, and I want to determine what questions to ask the prospect based on the information I need to know. I want to anticipate what questions/objections they might have and determine how I can answer their questions to help take risk out for them. Finally, I’m very focused on the points I want to make to them, that differentiates our company from others. None of the planning would be possible without research.

While I believe NineRuns is a great company name (it’s a baseball thing), it doesn’t open new doors without some type of connection. I can’t differentiate based on a name or location. I must have the grit to work through a few telephone hang ups or a few “no” answers.

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