Saturday, October 24, 2015

Gaining by Giving: 5 Ways I Make My Living Giving Things Away

One of the most interesting paradoxes in business is that the best way to be successful is to give freely (but wisely). I make my living working for a printing company that offers excellent value and exceptional quality, and my job is to bring clients to this company. I do this in two different ways. One way I do it is good, old fashioned pounding of the pavement. I visit businesses and I seek to discover needs that they might have which I might fulfill. This is a time tested and effective method to develop business. I earn small orders which lead to larger orders, and, in time, we become the go to vendor for printing for those clients. I also earn a lot of "no"s and a lot of running around. That's just the nature of the profession.

However, there is a second strategy that I employ. I have over 15 years of experience in running events and small to medium scale marketing including social media. I give advice in these areas absolutely free. I will sit down with anyone in my area for half an hour to an hour and gain an understanding of their business so that I may offer suggestions and direction based on my experience. I also volunteer to help run local events: parades, festivals, fund raisers, etc. With this variety of connections, I also often make introductions between two people who would otherwise not meet if there can be a mutual benefit.

The three parts of this "giveaway" strategy bring in no dollars. No matter how much I help with an event, how valuable a connection is that I make, or how much time I spend providing marketing advice, I do not charge a cent. In fact, I do not even establish an expectation that someone I help will purchase any printing that they might need through me. A cynic might suggest that I am being naive and giving away my time and skills. A cynic would be less successful in the field of sales than I am.

Here are five R's that return value for my efforts: Relationships, References, Resulting Opportunities, Reciprocity, and Really Fun.

You never know what kind of
interesting people you might
get to know.
When I cold call a prospect, they don't know me from Adam. They don't know if I am a good person or a bad person. They don't know much about my company, our quality, our reputation, our reliability. I need to start absolutely from scratch. If they knew everything about me and our company, it would be a foregone conclusion for many prospects that they would work with us, because I am a good and honest person who takes care of his customers, and Minuteman does excellent work and provides great value. My job is to slowly build trust and understanding over repeated interactions, a task made more difficult by the fact that all they know when they first meet me is that I want their money.

However, if a relationship begins with helping someone with their project, freely providing the benefit of my skills and experience, the work of building trust is half done.

If I arrange for someone to get a great set of business cards and letterhead, they will be pleased and they might share my name with someone they know who needs my services. However, if I provide help to a project or event or business in a way that helps to make it more successful, then they are far more likely to pass my name along to someone whom I could assist, either in the field of printing, or with my other talents.

Resulting Opportunities
My life as a car salesman: waiting for customers rather than
creating a benefit for the community.
Some of the connections I make create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Introducing two people could create a new event, a new project, or even a new business. It is quite likely that this new creation will have new needs that I can fulfill. When I sold cars, I found that there was a lack of satisfaction because I did not make anything. If I were not there, the customer would buy a car from someone else and their life would be largely the same. However, through the connections I can facilitate, I can do more than simply fulfill needs that already exist which would have been filled whether I came along or not: I can create something new, and that is a powerful good feeling for me.

I do not set an expectation that purchases will come to me when I lend my time and talents for two reasons: people do not like to feel that they are being forced to do something and most people are good and honorable. If I provide something of value, most people will want to find a way to return the favor to me. It is true that there are some people who will take advantage, benefiting from what I give but taking their business elsewhere. When I encounter such a person, I don't worry about it or get upset. I might think twice before volunteering to work with them again, but I won't otherwise bear them any ill will. The value of the positive relationships I can form with people by being open and generous is worth far more than the small disappointments that occasionally result.

The average salesman never gets the chance to run a
department at a convention with a radio in hand while
sitting on a throne of boxes.
Really Fun
I enjoy sharing marketing ideas. I love working on events. I get a charge out of making an introduction and seeing something blossom from it. Sales can be a fun business, but it can also be draining. Calling on strangers day in and day out can wear on you. The stress of making sure everything goes right so that the customer is happy every time is also taxing. But developing good relationships with people, helping to make good things happen, and being a part of the business community makes it all so much easier.

What is interesting is how few other salespeople I encounter in my endeavors. Maybe they don't see the immediate payoff. Maybe they are too focused on making an immediate sale to see the value of relationships. Who knows?

When I encounter someone who is giving something without an obvious return, I get suspicious. What are they after? That is part of why I wrote this article. I am quite upfront with why I volunteer my time and talents. I expect that in the ways described above, it will come back to me professionally, not necessarily directly from the individual or organization I assisted, but from the community at large. I get to do something good and helpful in way that helps to build my business. A win for everyone.

If you run a business on the eastern shoreline of Connecticut or are running an event that could use my help, don't hesitate to get in touch. I'd love to help out, for both your benefit and mine. You can call me at 203-707-1245 or email me.

Note: To those of you involved with BNI who read my title and had the thought "Gaining by Giving? that sounds like Givers Gain! Have you considered joining BNI?" Yes, I have. I am a part of the Gold Star BNI Chapter in Groton, CT.