FREE: Today’s Most Effective Marketing Tool

Buyers don’t always want to do business with you, but they may buy from you anyway if that’s the only way to get you to consistently share with them the valuable information you possess.

I got my first clue about the direction marketing was heading when I first began seeing FREE articles appearing in my email box. I’m not talking about junk mail, I’m talking about really good business articles that take rifle shot at the problems my customers – and yours – are experiencing.

As far back as 2009, author Chris Anderson, the former editor of The Economist and editor in chief of Wired magazine, authored a book entitled FREE: The Future of a Radical Price. In his book, FREE, Anderson shows his readers how to compete when their competitors are giving away what they are trying to sell.

In many businesses these days, a lot of the salespeople who are generating the highest monthly sales volume are giving away information at no charge and in return are asking for more favorable consideration than they would otherwise receive.

Bradley Hartmann, author of Behind Your Back: What Purchasing Managers Say When You Leave the Room and How to Get them to Say Yes, is a veteran purchasing manager at Pulte Homes, the nation’s second largest homebuilder. In Behind Your Back, Hartmann explains ways the most talented salespeople beat out the competition by increasing their value as seen through the eyes of the buyer.

The secret, of course, is coming up with the advice and counsel your customers so badly need. And to be successful at locating this FREE information, salespeople must understand their customers’ businesses and the problems they are struggling with. They must possess a lot more than an understanding of the products they sell, they must invest the time necessary to learn how to fix the problems that are causing their customers to pull their hair out.

This approach to selling requires salespeople to do a lot of research. By interviewing design staff, engineering, purchasing managers, field workers, etc., you will be surprised at how much information they can uncover. And once you have developed a thorough understanding of the problems these front line personnel are facing, the next step is finding solutions. Yes, it is time-consuming, but think of it this way: it’s a lot more fun and a lot more productive than spending the majority of your time working up prices, quoting and hoping.

In Rule 1.9 of Hartmann’s book, he gives a detailed account of how a salesperson first of all did enough research to determine how much drywall was being wasted on Pulte’s jobs and second of all what he would do to eliminate the problem if Hartmann would give him Pulte’s drywall business.

The salesperson’s reward? He soon earned 100% of Pulte’s drywall business.

What all of this means to me is the way salespeople go to market in a lot of industries is changing. Salespeople who are looking for an edge over the competition are disciplining themselves to approach prospects differently. They are working on ways improve their value as seen through the eyes of the decision makers.

When I began my sales career, I knew very little about my customers’ businesses, but I did make it a point to keep my eyes open and ask a lot of questions. On one of my prospect calls I noticed that the decision maker had disassembled one of his large product displays and had spread all over the showroom floor.

When I returned for my next visit, the display was still right where it had been three weeks earlier. When I asked the decision maker about the display, he confessed that he had two problems: the first was that product merchandising was not his long suit, and the second was that he was just too busy to focus.

Seeing an opportunity to make some points with the decision maker, I asked him if it would be of value to him if I took some photographs of some attractive displays as I traveled my territory. His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and told me that if I could bring him some display ideas he would be extremely grateful.

I returned with about two-dozen really good photographs of displays that were well designed and highly attractive. From the look on the decision maker’s face, I could tell that I had scored big. Two weeks later – completely out of the blue – he gave me an initial order.

The good news is that salespeople who embrace consultative selling will have learned a new way to sell. The bad news is that as consultative selling becomes more popular, the quote and hope salespeople are soon going to find themselves becoming obsolete.

Try this: Get in the habit of investing some time on Google looking for solutions to your customers’ and prospects’ most pressing business problems. You can use the best ideas you discover time again and again.

Grow your business by becoming a resource to your customers and prospects.