Improving Sales with Personal Connections
Yours truly with a fellow Ruby

When I heard that I was going to be the first Sales and Marketing Associate at Ruby (doubling the Sales Department), I was overjoyed. I adore writing and am a social media fiend; however, I was a bit nervous about the “Sales” side….

As a fresh-faced twenty-something with a degree in Comparative Literature and background in customer service, I didn’t have any formal sales training to speak of. (It’s just a coincidence I have red hair and look a whole lot like the Ruby mascot.) Starting as a virtual receptionist, I was confident about the ins and outs of what Ruby can do, and from the number of compliments swirling around the office, I knew our clients were devoted to us, but I was still shaking in my boots, wondering if I would make a good salesperson.

Training went well, but after two weeks, my boss, Diana, took me to lunch and gently told me that we needed to do a little more training…my sales numbers were dismal. To figure out where I was going wrong, Diana sat and listened to me on a sales call. The caller just had a few simple questions about how we work. My response was probably a little something like this: “Absolutely! We’d be happy to transfer calls to you live. You can even let us know when you’re working from home or in a meeting, and we can update your call handling instructions.” My tone was upbeat and friendly. I answered all of his questions perfectly and even anticipated his needs by telling him about our whereabouts feature. I set myself a reminder to follow up with him in a few days. I was helpful, cheerful, and thorough.

But who was this person on the other end of the line? What kind of business did he have? Do you or your sales associates get to know your prospects personally? People do business with people they like; even if you have a great product that folks love, without creating meaningful connections with potential clients, the sales process falls flat. When I got to chat for a moment about George Eliot or whether Portland is as rainy as it is in Twilight (the first movie was filmed here; and thankfully, not quite), I had ten times more fun on those calls. And once I got to know everyone I talked to, within a month my sales numbers more than doubled.

Next time you take a sales call, take a moment and ask them about themselves. If you have a B2B company, it might be a simple: “May I ask what type of business you have?” to get the ball rolling. Or, if they mention where they’re calling from or you recognize the area code, it can be a great conversation starter! “I noticed you’re calling from a 714 phone number; I’m from Southern California, too!” If you have a B2C business, try commenting on what product they’re interested in: “I would be happy to help you with that order. Is this a gift for a friend? I have this in purple — it’s great!”

Now when I see a compliment circulate the office from John, who started his printer repair business with his wife 20 years ago, or Lisa who was in incredible spirits, even with a cast on her foot, or anyone else I helped sign up, I swell with pride…and maybe send them a handwritten notecard!