Try Outrageous Selling! –Farquharson/Tedesco
Brook Reinhold shadows American soldiers in Afghanistan. He rides in armored vehicles with troops on live missions. When equipment fails, Reinhold calls engineers back home and new solutions are quickly engineered and sent back to the battlefield. Reinhold isn’t a soldier; he’s an “embedded” salesman for a defense contractor. You think your territory’s tough—imagine getting shot at to make the sale!
How exactly can Reinhold’s competition sell against him? They can’t! Reinhold’s selling strategy is outrageous…and outrageously effective.
Outrageous selling delivers value beyond what prospects and customers expect. No one’s asking you to hop in a tank to sell printing, but occasionally you can and should move out of your “same old, same old” comfort zone and into the world of outrageous selling. Creativity is key. Distinctness is golden.
The Outrageous Dinner. In his last job before founding the marketing firm he runs to this day, T.J. was a sales guy for a 200-person graphic arts services company. An employee at T.J.’s largest customer told him there was one big barrier to doing another $500k-$1mm worth of business a year: their presidents didn’t know each other well. Before T.J.’s company could make the jump from “supplier” to “partner,” the two big men had to develop a better rapport.
The president of T.J.’s company had resisted meetings like this. Against the advice of his sales manager, T.J. arranged a dinner for 10 people, five from each company. He reserved a private room at one of the best restaurants in town. The day before, T.J. showed the maître d’ a picture of his company’s president and instructed him to call him by name throughout the evening.
He foil-stamped the name of each dinner attendee on a small table tent and properly positioned them around the table. A limo stocked with Dom Perignon picked up everyone from both companies and brought them to the room. T.J.’s sales manager whispered, “Good luck, pal. You may have just slit your throat.” The evening cost more than $1,000.
A week later, the two presidents got together on their own. During the next year and beyond, T.J.’s company ended up doing as much new business with the customer as predicted.
The Outrageous Ice Cream Truck. Everybody loves ice cream. This simple thought helped Bill secure a nationally known major client.
It was the mid-1980s in Cambridge, MA. A young man still in his 20s, Bill had recently started a printing business called Advanced Form Systems (AFS) and was searching for new clients. For the past few months, he’d been courting a major prospect—Stride Rite, a Boston-based children’s footwear company. Getting through to anyone at this company had been next-to-impossible. Purchasing, marketing and sales doors were all shut.
One hot July afternoon, around lunchtime, Bill pulled up to Stride Rite’s headquarters in an ice cream truck that he’d rented for the day. Atop the truck he placed a banner: “Free Ice Cream for All Stride Rite Employees, Courtesy of Advanced Form Systems!” For the next hour, Bill handed out ice cream bars and business cards to countless Stride Rite employees.
Shortly afterwards, Bill got this call from a print buyer at Stride Rite: “You’re good. People here keep mentioning your name, and we can’t ignore you anymore.” Bill ended up getting a meeting with the buyer and, eventually, the account. Stride Rite gave AFS more than $100K of business in their first year as a client...not bad for a $500 investment in ice cream.
The Outrageous No. In April, 2006, T.J. was in a bad mood, and for good reason. He’d just flown cross-country to meet with a prospect right in his company’s wheelhouse. Before the visit, T.J. had considered this sale such a near slam-dunk that he’d incorporated the revenue numbers into his pro forma statements. But things didn’t go as planned, and T.J. lost (ahem, blew?) the sale.
T.J. figured a restful return flight back home would help him recover from the disappointing day. But, he soon found himself entangled in conversation with a talkative man sitting nearby on the plane. The “Doctor” had noticed a copy of a book, “Win Top of Mind Positioning,” lying on the seat between them.
The doctor explained that he led a Silicon Valley health care information technology startup company. At this point, T.J.’s company, Grow Sales, was a decade old. T.J. knew his batting average outside of the graphic arts industry was dismal. So T.J. told the truth: what he needed was a specialist in health care marketing. Otherwise, his company would spend a lot of time and money training the trainer. The doctor asked to borrow “Win Top of Mind Positioning” and thumbed through it until the plane landed in Phoenix, where T.J. would catch a connecting flight home.
“Where can I get this book?” the doctor asked.
“Keep it,” T.J. responded. “I’ve got other copies.”
“Of course,” T.J explained. “I’m the author.”
Later, T.J. received a phone call from the doctor. “Not many people tell me no. I’d like to introduce you to my team.”
Soon, T.J. found himself back in San Francisco, pitching his company. This time he won the contract, then the largest in Grow Sales’ history. Five years later, the doctor’s company sold to a private equity firm for $80mm; not bad for the doctor, or for T.J., since he was given options a few years earlier. To this day, the company is still a large retainer client. Though the doctor has moved on, he and Grow Sales, are working together again, this time on behalf of two other health care IT-related companies.
The Outrageous Ad Specialty Ruler. One of Bill’s favorite selling tactics involves giving prospects rulers with his company’s name and phone number on them. That’s not all. Bill customizes each ruler with the recipient’s name and ships it with great care. Each costs $18 to produce and distribute.
Would you pay $18 for a ruler? Not likely. How about $18 for a lifetime of brand impressions with a good prospect? How does $18 sound now? Many of Bill’s prospects and customers have held onto these rulers for years, even decades.
In fact, Bill recently visited a long-time prospect-turned-customer and found that a decision-maker there had held onto the same ruler Bill gave him a quarter century earlier!
Bill has calculated that, over the years, these rulers have netted him hundreds of thousands of dollars in business. Bill used these rulers to kick-start healthy and ongoing selling relationships with Harvard, MIT and other big-name print clients.
What is the take-home message from these stories? Take a chance. Throw out the same old/same old sales playbook and walk on the outrageous side. It’s not like we’re asking you to sell in Afghanistan...or are we? PI
—Bill Farquharson, T.J. Tedesco
About the Authors
Bill Farquharson is the president of Aspire For (www.AspireFor.com). His Sales Challenge can help drive your sales momentum. Contact him at (781) 934-7036 or e-mail email@example.com. T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, a 15-year-old marketing and PR services company. He is author of “Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry” and five other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.