Friday, January 14, 2011
Best Economic Development Salesman
Recently I was asked who was the best eco dev sales man I have known. It is an interesting question. I have known several effective salesmen during my time in economic development. Bob Gibson, Frank Newman and Brent Sheffler come to mind. All three impressed me with their skill and wisdom. They listened to the client’s needs and tried to match them with resources. Most importantly, they all sought win-win conclusions.
However, the best is Wayne L. Sterling. He taught me decades ago to identify the client's needs and wants. Needs are usually well documented. A true economic development pro can identify the client’s wants. To find these out you first (and most importantly) must listen.
He also believed that economic development professionals must justify a client's decision. Clients are committing a significant amount of capital; it can run into the millions. An effective salesman endeavors to understand his client's requirements and prepare a customized response. He knows his product. In essence, how do you differentiate yourself?
As he would say before marketing missions, if you talk more than 20 percent of the time during a sales meeting, consider it a failed call. The goal is to listen, learn and observe. An effective salesman talks less and listens more. After all, economic development is a relationship business. You are building relationships. If you are really good, you are not necessarily viewed as a salesman, but as a resource that helps clients solve problems.