I don’t like selling things. It makes the hair stand up on my arms. Which is a little bit of problem because of the four owners of the company, it’s my job to grow and develop the business.
I also don’t like jargon. Or formal, formatted meetings. Which also isn’t ideal when you head up marketing.
I struggle to even say things like “I’ve got a hard stop in fifteen minutes”, or “what’s your bandwidth on this?”
I’m pretty bad. I say “Howzit” and I call a “deck” a Power Point.
On my first trip up to Johannesburg after I’d joined the company, I got up at 4am and arrived at the airport in the dark for the red-eye. My stomach sank slightly as I watched the streams of business people in suits heading up the main escalators doing exactly what I was doing. It was so far removed from the creative space that I felt comfortable in that I questioned being there.
And so there and then I made an agreement with myself. I stopped and stood quietly on one side before stepping into the line. I promised myself that I would just be myself. I would be as creative and inquisitive and informal as I am in my real life. I would dress and talk and engage and be as sincere and down to earth as possible with our clients.
And that made it easy. I wasn’t selling anything to anyone. What we do helps our clients. It saves them money, it improves the service they can offer their clients, and it makes their lives easier. I can help them be happier and less stressed. I start just about every first meeting with the words “I don’t want this to be a sales meeting”. And I don’t. Who gets up in the morning and wants to have a sales meeting. Not me, thanks.
I don’t even take product samples with me to initial meetings. I am there to interact and engage and connect. To have a quick cup of coffee. Person to person. To be creative and inquisitive and to make sure that we can add value. And hopefully to be warm and engaging and sincere.
And strangely, evolving out of the process, you mostly look forward to seeing your clients. You develop a warm and sincere relationship. You find yourself smiling as you arrive at their offices. And enjoying the banter on messages and emails.
And mostly you focus, very hard and diligently, and making sure that as a company you outperform and overdeliver on our agreements. And then there is that great feeling and feedback when you know that they know that they can trust you. That you have done what you said you would. That as a team your company is world-class.
It isn’t very different to having guests around for a meal. I get a similar feeling from a client thanking us for doing what we do well, to the feeling I get when I’ve cooked a great meal and can see how much everyone is enjoying the food.
And keeping it sincere and simple allows you to be the opposite of a snob. You get an opportunity be interested in, and kind towards, everyone from the CEO of large international enterprises to the janitor in a small local business.
My life has been enriched by this warm, kind and friendly network of mid-level and low-level contacts. Everyone from security guards, to technicians to facilities teams.
Now I just need to figure out who I prefer being. Fat Thor, or dubbing Santa.