by Bernie Anderson
My name is Bernie Anderson and I have the honor of taking over the BAM blog for the next several weeks. I am a certified business and nonprofit consultant with Growability® – read more in my bio below.
The day I landed my first “grown-up job” I was pretty excited. It was Summer of 1985 and I had graduated high school. I was not entirely sure what was next in my life, so I took a gap year before figuring out college, university, trade school, or something else. I landed a job in a local shop that sold books and music, two of my favorite things in this world, to this day. For a year, I thrived as a salesclerk. People would come into the store wanting a new series to read or a new album to listen to — and I could authentically help them with that problem. Sales was a satisfying job because I was serving people by being generous with my knowledge of books and music.
We sometimes get jaded with age.
Over the years that love for sales waned, mostly because I hated being “sold to” (and there are a lot hucksters in this world who do just that!) The slick used-car or door-to-door salesperson, trained to be psychologically manipulative, conning you into spending money on things you don’t need.
Later, we were just-married, and I was seeking work to pay bills, I interviewed for a sales job at a mattress store. The first question the manager asked was, “Are you willing to do what it takes to make a sale? Would you lie to a customer, telling them there’s only one mattress left and you will lose it unless you buy now?”
I said “no” and walked away.
In my mind, marketing and sales was a “necessary evil” for running a business.
Yet, marketing is the second simple ingredient in your BAM project and it’s non-negotiable. It’s at the heart of all business. You must take your valuable product to the market. This is unavoidable.
Sales is about prioritizing your customer and solving their problem
In the Growability® Business Operating System, there are two critical aspects of marketing:
1. Prioritize Your Customers
2. Automate Your Sales
Here’s where many of us need a mindset change.
Marketing and sales is not the “necessary evil” so many make it out to be.
Marketing and sales is not only crucial for the long-term success of your business, but it can be one of the kindest and most generous activities. It was never supposed about deceiving people out of their money for the sake of a sale. Marketing and sales is, at its core, about solving actual problems.
The only way to secure the future of your BAM project is to prioritize your customer. This doesn’t mean we have to embrace the adage of “the customer is always right”. Nobody is always right. However, your customer does always pay your bills. They know what they want more than we do, so the stability of your business depends on knowing what your customers value.
Running a business is hard. Yet, there is something deeply satisfying about running a business, when you realize that business is ultimately about relationships and human flourishing. Customers are at the core of this. Sure, you can hug your money – but your money will never hug you back. Selfishness never scales. Greed never scales. Service will always scale. Prioritizing your customers just works.
Most marketing starts with branding. This is a mistake.
In the Growability® Business Operating System, we say start with your customer who has a problem, for which you have a solution. We train our clients with a 5-step process for making sure the business is prioritizing customers. This is how to stabilize and sustain your business and lubricates the sales process, which makes selling easier.
1. Create Customer Personas
Give your customers a name! Be precise. What is the exact problem your product or service is solving for your specific customer? What do they look like and what are they thinking?
2. Determine the way you will talk about your business
Your business has a story to tell. But you are not the main character of that story, your customer is. How will you talk about your business, while placing your customer front and center?
3. Define your brand and where it positions itself in the marketplace
Now it is time to differentiate yourself from others who may offer your customer similar solutions to your problem. What sets you apart? What makes you the best solution?
4. Build a strategy with your marketing tools
Marketing tools are everywhere. Marketing strategy is often scarce. Slapping a website on the Internet or posting pictures on Instagram may or may not serve your potential customers. Where does your customer “hang out”? What are they searching on the Internet when trying to solve their problem? Your business needs to be there, front and center, and ready to serve!
5. Customize your customer’s journey
How will you communicate with your customers as they move through the process of solving their problem? What will you do to move them from being prospective buyers to satisfied customers?
An automated sales process is ultimately customer-centric. Your business is providing your customer with a solution to their problem. You are inviting people to an experience and that experience should be joyful for everyone involved. Because selling can be difficult for many business owners, an automated process make it easier. It builds habits and keeps us motivated. Think of your sales process as a rescue mission and an invitation to a relationship.
Automating sales depends on the problem you’re solving, and the customer you serve.
What’s the right sales strategy?
As you study your customer, develop a sales strategy to connect with them. Go where they are, whether in person or online. What is the relationship with your customer based on? Are the conversations with your customer based on persuasion (you really need this – it will change your life) or empowerment (you really need this – let me show you how).
Every sales strategy should be measurable – even relational ones! One of my relational strategies is a specific coffee meeting (this is in the toolkit that is part of the Growability® Business Operating System). I keep track of how many of these coffee meetings I have every month. A sales strategy you can’t measure is just an idea.
Sales and marketing should be the most fun and joyful part of your BAM project, not a necessary evil! This is the point at which you are connecting to people. You are solving their problems, often at multiple levels: body, soul, and spirit.
These are two out of the six fundamental parts of the complete Growability® Business Operating System. If you would like help implementing this in your business or nonprofit organization, contact Bernie@growability.com for options.
Look out for posts through September on each of these three essentials for any business.
Bernie Anderson is a consultant, coach, and trainer with Growability® Consulting, specializing in non-profit and cross-cultural business and leadership. Check out the Growability® Podcast at all your favorite podcast places. He currently lives in Greenville, SC USA, with his wife of 34 years. Bernie’s career has certainly been a diverse one. He spent 13 years as a pastor and the better portion of 10 years living in Central Asia, while developing entrepreneurial, Christian leaders. Since returning to the US in 2014, he has been a major-gifts fundraiser for an international nonprofit and is currently a certified business and nonprofit consultant with Growability®, where the mission is to equip business and nonprofit leaders to enjoy meaningful work by creating scalable, effective, and generous organizations. For further help for your organization (or his exact sourdough process) feel free to email him firstname.lastname@example.org.