In my almost 30 years of being in business I have learned so much about the sales cycle and promoting and marketing what you sell. I have seen all types of sales people and I am not going to get into styles and what is the best way to sell. As a matter of fact, in my mind one of the best ways to sell is to not sell, or don’t worry about the sale, at least not upfront.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Many years ago I went to lunch with a mentor of mine and he was very keen about getting this account. His company had done a little business with the company of the person we were going out for lunch with, but he wanted more of the business – I think if memory serves me right he wanted all of the business.

When we picked the person up, he told them the afternoon was theirs to go where they liked or to do what they liked, as he had nothing else planned. I found out afterwards that who we had lunch with was only part of the decision making team but I learned quickly from my mentor that this was very important. They had influence and they would talk about the lunch, but more importantly they would about my mentor, his company and service. During lunch there was zero talk about business. There was talk about family, baseball, hockey, TV, community, food – everything except business. Seriously, not a word. When we dropped the person back off at their office my mentor said, “I will give you call next week and we can talk about maybe doing a little more business with you if it is going to work for you. If it’s not that’s ok, we’re happy to have you as a customer”.

This has been a lesson that has stuck with me ever since. I asked him about his approach once the door was closed and the customer was gone. My mentor didn’t give a long explanation but it is sure a good one – people do business with people they like and trust and that takes time. Afterwards I thought “What a simple approach”. Now, keep in mind, you still need to have the product, service and great people in your company to have that kind of confidence. Within our family businesses and our team, we certainly have that covered. Our core value is people and quality, service, and reputation is our brand. It is what people rely and count on and have for three decades.

I thought about my old mentor the past couple of weeks. My son Matt and I were on a business trip in the U.S. not long ago. One of our awesome customers was there so we arranged dinner, just the three of us. No talk about business, everything but. It was an amazing evening with great company. The intent was not to create more business but to continue to solidify our relationship and our friendship.

A week after our trip to the U.S., a customer we will be entering into a bigger business relationship with soon invited my wife Lisa and I away for a couple days with some of his family and other friends and business associates. We had two fabulous days of getting to know each other better, great conversation, great meals and events and really no talk of business. Just time spent to build trust and develop our relationship.

You have heard me talk about a mentor throughout this. Who is your mentor? Do you have one? More than one? I have had a few over the years. You can’t do it all on your own, you certainly don’t know it all. You learn from great mentors and great people. I have. This industry is full of them. I am fortunate to be mentoring a few people on my own now. One of the first thing I suggest to those I am mentoring when it comes to sales and growing their business is to take your time, build relationships, build trust, earn your customer’s loyalty and most importantly remember people do business with people they like and trust. That takes time, so spend some real time with your customers.

Have a great rest of the summer!

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