Selling from the Front Porch

I used to love going with my parents to my Aunt Betty and Uncle Andy’s house when I was young.  They lived on a farm in the country.  We would usually get there in the late afternoon and begin to spend some time fishing or picking fruit and vegetables from their large garden and orchard.  The work was followed by a hearty supper, which always included some form of meat.  Andy was a hunter, and you were never told what you were eating until after the meal. 

We typically would retire on the warm Missouri summer nights to the front porch, where we would work on processing the garden produce.  Oftentimes, we would have a glass of sweet tea or some homemade ice cream.  We would sit together, talk and share our lives with each other.  It was what happened after supper that taught me some of the best lessons on sales that I have ever learned in my life. 

Saying you were sold something is always a negative, saying you bought something is always a positive.  Jeffrey Gitomer says it like this, “People hate to be sold something but they love to buy.”  I first learned this one night when a neighbor of my uncle’s dropped by to complain about the “lemon of the truck he was sold.”  The salesman had “sold him a bill of goods” about the truck’s ability.  My uncle, who has always been a proud GM owner, began to rave about the Chevy truck he recently bought. 

If you listen to yourself and to other people, you will find this principal to be true.  Every time you have a bad experience with something you bought, you never want to take ownership that you actually made the decision to buy it, but that you were “tricked” into acquiring the item by a salesperson.  When you make a purchase you are proud of, you tend to puff out your chest and announce to the world how smart you are.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  I saw this with a few salesmen who would wander up the driveway when we were snapping beans.  One guy, who was selling encyclopedias, was interested in only finishing his well-rehearsed sales speech and ignored some of the questions my aunt had.  He was only interested in getting to the close.  He ended without any sale, because he did not care about the customer. 

The knowledgeable salesman was in stark contrast to a fuel salesman. My uncle used a bit of fuel around the farm in his equipment.  One evening Joe, the fuel salesman, came by.  He did not have a well-rehearsed sales speech and was not in a hurry.  Instead, he sat down in a chair on the front porch and began to shell peas with the rest of us.  He was genuinely interested in my family as we shared life together.  He did not get the sale that evening.  It did take several more evenings of snapping beans and shucking corn on the porch, but eventually, he did get my uncle’s business, the business of the rest of his family and also the majority of the neighbors.

People find it easier to buy from people they know and like than from strangers.  Not only that, but if they know and like you, they will refer other people they know to you.  The adults in my family would frequently recommend mechanics, butchers, ag suppliers and anything else that they had a good relationship with and they trusted.  They were also not afraid to tell about those they wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

In order to sell, you must first come up to the porch.  No matter if you like it or not, we all must sell to survive.  Even though credit unions tend to be more relational than our banking brethren, we still must sell ourselves and our institution.  The most successful sales people are those who are wise enough to take the time to join your members and future members on the front porch or the back deck.

These are two places where life slows down.  Everyone on the porch is a real person who has hopes, dreams, history, fears, successes and things that keep them up at night.  You can be successful on the porch if you show interest and are genuinely curious about other people.  It is in the sharing of life that relationships are built.  As those relationships are built, your credit union will grow as more members come into your group.  They will not do so because you had the best rate or the best product.  They will do so, because they believe you are the best one to meet their financial needs.

Someone once asked me how I could so naturally visit with business owners and walk away with loans and deposit accounts.  I smiled and said if I ever lose my bearings, I just close my eyes briefly and step onto their porch.  If you want to be successful, sit down and pour a glass of tea.  You may find the pace a little slower than the telemarketer, but you will find some friendships that will last a lifetime.