I walk into the bakery and smile to the counter person. My attire and accessories give me away. The donuts and baguettes are safe for another few minutes.
The attendant chooses a grim countenance as she inquires about my need for assistance. My card flashes forward and I give my usual introduction – part explanation and part request for the owner’s attention. My words of greeting were halfway to their intended recipient when an angry-looking man appeared from who-knows-where and practically charges the counter:
“We aren’t interested!” he nearly shouts.
I step back involuntarily and assume the surrender position, saying:
“Hands up, don’t shoot.”
Angry-man just glowers. There is tension but I’ve been here before so I try again.
“I come in peace. Maybe, there’s a better time to talk but I made sure the bakery wasn’t busy before I came in.”
The redness in his face pales a couple of shades but his face doesn’t soften. Not even a little.
“People come in here all the time trying to sell us advertising. We are happy with what we are doing and don’t want whatever it is you’ve got.”
Okay, I get it. When one sells advertising door-to-door this interaction is as common as it is frustrating. After all, none of us is intentionally trying to waste a business owner’s time, so why do they act like we are? More importantly, how do we get past the initial skepticism, or worse, to have a more productive conversation?
While we can debate the merits of selling advertising via door-to-door cold calling, the fact is that many of us do it and the practice isn’t likely to stop just because it’s difficult. So, simply saying one should never walk in cold is just not reality.
Since many of us are going to keep on doing it, our first step is understanding the likely root of the owner’s reaction. Even if he isn’t angry, he is not likely to be forthcoming. That’s because he doesn’t have a relationship with you.
Ah, you say, the first step then is to build a relationship with him. Okay, yes, but we are talking about a business relationship – not a personal one. Going in and inquiring about the owner’s health isn’t going to get it done. To figure out what to do, we must understand the basis of a business relationship.
Business relationships are built on the twin pillars of TRUST and CREDIBILITY. When you walk in off the street, you have neither. The objective should be to begin building the relationship on one of the pillars, but which one?
Most sellers attempt to go the TRUST route. They attempt to convey the commonalities shared with the prospect. “You can trust me because I’m just like you with a wife and kids and a business. My kids play soccer and go Trick or Treating and so do yours. Awesome! We should be business partners!” The problem with going down the trust route is two-fold:
- The owner thinks all sellers are disingenuous – acting with their own interests in mind at all times. A disingenuous salesperson can’t be trusted with important details about his business! Any initial attempt at building trust is stonewalled.
- Trust is built by performance over time. Trying to invoke trust as the germination of a business relationship demonstrates a lack of understanding about the nature of trust. Trust is not built on a set of commonalities. We build trust in layers by demonstrating our dependability, honesty and forthrightness.
Because of these truths, the only possible pillar upon which to build a business relationship is CREDIBILITY. Luckily, for those of us walking cold into a business, credibility can be granted instantly. Here are few simple ways to gain credibility:
- Dress Appropriately
- Be respective of the ongoing operations
- Be prepared to do business
- Have appropriate sales collateral and “leave behinds”
- Bring testimonials from nearby or similar businesses
Of course, there are more but the point is to work on being credible so the business owner will take the time to meet with you. Then, you’ll have opportunities to demonstrate your trustworthiness and the relationship will have a chance to grow.