Recently I had a sales call with a prospective client. I have a basic form for people to fill out on my website when they book the call, but I typically walk into these types of calls a lot like a blind date: I know their name, we agreed on the time and location, and I have some basic information. But in reality, I know nothing about them.
The first thing I always do is ask the person, “What are you looking for? How can I help?” I have a few different service lines so this allows me to filter and categorize them into how I think I can best help solve their problems. After all – every business is about solving our customer’s problems.
As the prospect is talking, I quickly realize what they’re needing fits perfectly in line with this one service I offer. It’s an inexpensive, templated approach to building a website. I go through my typical spiel and give her the high level details – all the things she needs to make an informed decision for her company. She thanks me, says she’ll poke around her options a little more, and then let me know when she’s made a decision.
That’s when I surprised her:
Before we got off the call, I gave her the name, website, and contact information for two of my competitors who do the exact same thing I do. I let her know I was friends with both owners and they would take great care of her. I suggested she check them out and see if what they offer could be a better fit than what I was offering. She looked me dead in the eye – well, as dead in the eye as you can on Zoom – and asked, “Why would you do that?!”
For me, it was a natural thing to do. My business approach comes down to six words: Be nice. Work hard. Help people. As I explained that to her, I gave her three reasons why I would refer her to my competitors:
1) I want what’s best for her, not just what makes me money.
Part of being nice and helping people is doing what’s best for them, not what makes you the most money. Not only is that a good approach to life and business from a sheer humanity standpoint, but it also leads to more business in the long run. Sure, I could’ve taken the job, gotten it done, and had one customer buy one product. But by doing what’s best for her, I cultivated an advocate for my business. While I might not get her business on this project, the chances of her referring someone else to me went up significantly just because I showed her I cared about her success, not my own. I’d much rather have an advocate who refers me to multiple people than someone who buys a product or service one time. As someone who relies 100% on referrals, those advocates are vital to my future success.
2) She should know her options and I’m confident enough in my work to be okay with her choosing someone else.
While I’m a business owner, I’m also a customer. I know how frustrating it is to buy something you thought was the best solution to your problem only to find out there was a better option a week after finishing the project. I’m really confident in the work I do, but I know I’m not the best fit for everyone. If she went and chose one of the competitors, I know there’s still plenty of other customers out there who will choose me when I’m the right fit.
3) If she saw the competition and still chose me, she’d be a better client to work with which would make my life better.
The first two reasons were focused on her, but this one was quite possibly the most important to me. If a customer makes an informed decision and buys your service, it’s because they trust you and want to work with you. They had other options so there was no obligation for them to partner with you. When they choose you, they’re more likely to view you as the expert. When they view you as the expert, they’re less likely to question or micromanage every piece of the project. Having customers who trust me, follow my processes, and are easy to work with is something I value you way more than just winning a sale. I’d rather pass on ten bad clients to win the one good one. Money is nice, but enjoyable work – when combined with money – is the reason I started my business. The funny thing is, I straight up told her that and she laughed and agreed with me.
At the end of the day, this prospect was shocked I’d send her to my competitors, but she appreciated the suggestions and the honesty in my reasoning. In a sales culture that’s all about saying what’s needed to close a deal, you can stand out from everyone else by doing what’s best for your customer instead of what’s best for you.
Oh – the best part?
She told her boss about me. He liked my approach so much he’s spending more money than they originally planned to spend because he wants to do things the right way.
It’s amazing how far a little honesty and transparency goes.