Time to Break Some Rules

In the world of selling, some rules seem to apply. Some make sense. You probably agree that it’s a good idea to follow the rule to know as much or more than your customer. You’re also keeping the rule of offering value to your customers. Some rules are made to be broken. Here are the rules that I’ve broken that have helped my selling.

1. A great strategy is what sells.

A great strategy is not enough. Certainly a great strategy is better than a poor one. What about the companies with great products and very talented folks working for them? Some of those companies simply ran out of funding. You may say their strategy is flawed, but that’s the problem with strategy. The strategy tells you what to do, but not what to do if it turns out differently than you plan. Who would ever knowingly implement a flawed strategy? Sometimes you know the strategy is heading south only when it’s too late to do something else. Strategy without an ongoing assessment of its results is dangerous. So when you develop a strategy for implementing your selling, also develop the timelines for achieving your goals. If you get off track, realize you had better change strategy before it is too late.

2. Relationships help you sell.

That depends on how you define relationships. You may get to know someone well by keeping in touch with cards and letters. It doesn’t mean you have created a strong enough relationship. It may not be strong enough to sustain a continued business relationship if management changes. Relationships alone don’t sustain business. Relationships that produce results do. Getting results isn’t enough. When you’ve produced results you must document them and present them to management. You want to get management’s acknowledgement that you’ve done great work that helps their company. And even that may still not be enough. You still may lose the business if a brother-in-law has the same product to sell. It’s just less likely to happen because you’ve proved your work is good .

3. Networking will get you business.

Networking groups abound. You could spend your entire business day networking. I get invited to many networking groups. What I’ve seen has convinced me that my time is better spent elsewhere. To see if it applies to you, first identify where you get your business. It’s probably not a networking group. Here’s what I’ve found. My consulting and training is a business-to-business sale. It’s also an intangible. I can explain the triggers that drive my business to someone who knows me well at a networking function. The drivers are a company with a sales meeting looking for a dynamic speaker, a company not making its goals, or a company looking for ways to improve performance.

Even if I share this information in a networking group with someone who knows me well and likes me, I know that the likelihood of that person having a conversation about my business is unlikely. They’re not going to do my selling for me. What is more likely to happen is that they might remember to respond if and when someone else asks them for a recommendation when one of these triggers is mentioned. That infrequent occurrence is too little to help me make my goals. I find it better to have strategic alliances with people who also call on the same types of business that I am calling on. Joining trade associations where my customers and prospects attend is another better use of time. Networking just doesn’t work for me.

Some rules are made to be followed all the time. The rule that your integrity and honesty are truly what you’re selling is important to keep. Just remember that some rules are made to be broken—at least some of the time.


Maura Schreier-Fleming is president of Best@Selling (www.BestatSelling.com.) She works with business and sales professionals who want to sell more and be more productive at work. She is the author of Real-World Selling for Out-of-this-World Results, Sales Quotes and writes several business columns including "Customer Connections" for the Dallas, Austin and Houston Business Journals. She writes the Real Deal: Success for Women in Business blog for Allbusiness.com. She’s been quoted in the New ...

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