In honor of Father’s Day last week, I feel compelled to share some valuable lessons which have been handed down to me throughout the generations by the fathers in my family and which have influenced my career as a professional more positively than I could ever express.
The lessons date back to my great-grandfather, William Brown, an Irish-born British citizen, who left his home in England circa 1906 to open one of the first Crown Life Insurance agencies in Havana. He instantly fell in love with Cuba and the Cuban people — in particular, my great-grandmother, Amparo Rasco . They had eight children, six girls and two boys, Fergie and Bobby, whom he recruited to sell insurance with him, and to whom he passed on his secret to building a successful career in sales: “Any fool can make a sale,” he said to them, “but it takes a true professional to earn repeat, referred and residual business.” These words would serve his sons well.
Together, Fergie and Bobby became a sales force to be reckoned with. Whether by car, boat or horseback, the Browns covered Cuba’s countryside selling insurance policies that would protect their clients’ families. Their work was meaningful to them, and the personal relationships they forged with many of their clients lasted a lifetime. They would go on to enjoy a successful sixty-year career despite such debilitating setbacks as The Great Depression of the 1930s, and being forced into exile in 1960 — all the while attributing their extraordinary success and longevity to their father’s words of wisdom.
Repeat sales: Research has proven that generating new business from repeat clients is both easier and more cost-effective than developing a new customer. Additionally, I have found that my biggest sale with a customer usually isn’t the first one, but rather the second or third sale after I have earned that customer’s confidence. Consider these simple ideas for generating more repeat business from your existing client base:
Be sure to deliver a quality product or service. Repeat business may be easier to generate than new business, but you still have to earn it.
Communicate with your clients on a regular basis through personal visits, quick phone calls, emails or hand-written notes. Research the latest trends in their industry and ask how their business is doing. The key is to get in front of them and ask questions that will help you determine if their needs have changed since your last transaction.
Send your clients reminders. Veterinarians send postcard reminders when it’s time for your pet’s checkup. Mechanics place a sticker on your windshield reminding you when it’s time for an oil change.
Referred sales: Referrals are powerful because people prefer to do business with people they know. But asking for a referral can be difficult, or uncomfortable when you don’t know how or when to ask for them. The easiest way to get referrals to start pouring in is to standardize the process:
First, be sure you understand the value you create for others with your product or service. If you’re convinced of that, why wouldn’t you want to share that with as many people as possible?
Start the referral process at the beginning of the sales transaction. I ask my customers on the front end if they would be willing to give me referrals on the condition I do a great job for them.
Link the referral request to each transaction. Every recurring transaction offers an appropriate pretext to ask for referrals.
Residual sales: These sales are the result of understanding your customer’s needs beyond the original sale and facilitating the right products or services to meet those needs. Every time you walk in to a gas station’s convenience store to pay for gas and walk out with a soda, you’ve added to their residual sales. In fact, every item in that store has been selected for its high residual potential among gas station patrons. Interestingly, the first gasoline station in the world was a pharmacy in Germany making gasoline itself a residual product. All we have to do is identify those opportunities for our own business.
Four generations and over a century later, I continue to follow my great-grandfather’s timeless lessons for success in sales — lessons that I’m already starting to pass on to my own son and that I hope he will one day implement in his own career. After all, father knows best.
Manny García-Tuñón is president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm based in Miami. www.mgtunon.com