May 14, 2007
Good old shoe leather builds up client base
Special to The Seattle Times
THE SEATTLE TIMES
Job hunters who are in the market for a sales position may want to put down their personal electronic devices and start polishing up their people skills.
Although consumers are increasingly likely to seal a deal with a click instead of handshake, sales professionals say the personal touch is still a vital component of their work.
"Building a relationship is most important in any sales job," said Ya Ming Zhou, a financial adviser for Edward Jones investments.
And the best way to do that, she says, is face to face.
Zhou should know. In a little more than a year, she's developed a client base more than 100 strong the old-fashioned, shoe-leather way, going door to door in the neighborhoods near her Lynnwood office to get to know people and explain her business.
It takes confidence to knock on a stranger's door, because as "Selling 101" author Zig Ziglar writes, "You will be treated rudely. People will, on occasion, slam doors in your face."
Zhou, who says you can't take that kind of reaction personally, says confidence is easy to come by when a salesperson has a strong belief in the value of the product she pedals.
In sales, she said, you need the drive to meet your company's quotas and a passion for what you sell, but you must also keep your client's best interests in mind. Looking out for the customer and delivering the promised results lead to trust, which Zhou acknowledges is especially important when managing people's assets.
Avon sales representative Lora Vandergiessen of North Seattle agrees that giving personal attention and fulfilling a client's needs often lead to a connection.
"Your customers come to trust you. Many share what they are going through and need to just talk to someone," Vandergiessen said. "A good listening ear and caring heart helps."
Though Vandergiessen's mother-in-law, who sold Avon for nearly 40 years, would go door to door and spend hours having tea in customers' homes, Vandergiessen said times have changed and customers' lives have become busier.
She now focuses on following Avon's concept of getting three brochures a day into the hands of potential customers and talks with people about her business every chance she gets.
In other words, networking can pay off whether selling face creams or Roth IRAs.
Since starting with Edward Jones in 2005, Zhou has reached out to many CPAs with the goal of having CPAs refer their clients to her and in turn funneling contacts back their way when her customers need an accountant. She also plans to join the Chamber of Commerce and other professional groups to make more contacts in the community.
"The more people you know, and the more you can let people know we're here, the more clients I can attract," Zhou said.
Though expanding the number of clients she has is one of her top goals now, eventually her job will shift from sales. Most of her time will be spent keeping on top of her customers' ever-changing financial needs – all the more reason why it's vital to be passionate about the product.
Vandergiessen puts in it plainly when asked what advice she'd give someone looking to get a job in sales.
"You should love what you sell," she said. "I am my own best customer."
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