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Can you grow your business with one simple sentence?

Matthew Ferrara, photography, Florence, Italy

Yes, if that sentence is sincere.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a complex marketing template to talk customers into a sale. There’s no secret formula to mass-market your way to growth. Of course, many salespeople try everything and anything before buckling down to the essential work of prospecting: Take my advice: forget all those shiny things promising leads Nothing works better than good, old fashioned honest prospecting.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill said: We can always count on salespeople to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.

For most salespeople, their  profession is built one customer at a time. (It’s a different game if you’re selling lightbulbs; but the service professional is selling an outcome.) Certainly marketing can play a role , like promoting thought-leadership, information and stories of clients who benefited from your help. But don’t confuse marketing with prospecting.

Prospecting requires a dialogue. It hears before it speaks. It’s not one-size fits all, and it’s not easily summed up in a script. For many salespeople, it even requires doing the work before getting paid.

Prospecting, as they say, builds business the old fashioned way: It earns it.

Yet, it’s actually very easy. It can start as simply as this email exchange I recently had:

Once a day, I dive into my “important people”  folder in my Outlook. I write a short, personalized message – typically one or two lines – to a prospect (I consider them very important people) or a past client. This was one I sent just last week:

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A one-line email, sent to someone I’d like to work with again someday. It didn’t remind him of how amazing, accredited, award-winning or sought-after I am. It simply and sincerely asked how I could help him.

Within  few minutes, this was his response:

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Now, how may replies like that do you get from a mass-emailed brag-template?

If you want someone to stop, look up, and talk to you, why not just sincerely talk to them. Offer them something they don’t get frequently: a willingness to listen. We live in an era of self-declared marketing: gurus, top dogs, masters-of-the-universe, who have the secret, the superb, the one thing everyone needs….. Yawn. It’s increasingly rare for a salesperson to start from the other end:

Hello. How can I help you, if at all? I’d like to listen.

So what happened? It turns out my one-line prospecting message itself was of value. My client wrote back to say he would be sharing my email with his sales team at his next meeting. He wanted to show them how a simple follow up can catch attention and create a conversation.

In effect, I was already contributing to his success.

Yes, but did I make a sale? Of course. A follow up conversation became the basis of some training work to help the entire organization rethink it’s approach to what it means to be a salesperson of value before you can be a valued salesperson.

So how would this work for you? Do your prospecting actions – whether by call or email or social messaging – invite conversations by listening? What would it take to skip the humblebrags and the hyperlinks and truly focus your attention on listening?  

As my friend Ron Willingham used to say: You can almost never talk your way into a sale, but you can almost always listen your way into one.

And it only takes one sincerely line to make a good start.