Pull, don’t push customers

The U.S. economy didn’t just go down during the past decade — it has changed — radically.

“Our traditional approach to business development and client growth just isn’t cutting it anymore,” declared Meridith Elliott Powell, the speaker at the recent Insight on Business program in Reno, sponsored by City National Bank.

Powell, an Asheville, N.C.-based business growth expert and author, offered attendees thought-provoking insights into the three steps they might use to better succeed in what she calls a relationship economy.

The thrust of her message: “You want to pull your customers to you to buy, not push them,” she said, talking about the paradigm shift. Pivotal to this is getting your employees engaged.

“Treat your best employees like you treat your best customers,” said Powell. “They are golden.”

The strategies outlined in her book, “Winning in a Trust and Value Economy,” are based on conversations Powell had with CEOs, entrepreneurs and sales professionals whose enterprises and careers are thriving despite what many consider a soft economy.

They are the 20 percent of business owners who are focused on solutions and innovation and not waiting for a return to the olden golden days, said Powell, a witty and engaging speaker whose comments brought both laughter and nods of agreement.

“You want to be part of that 20 percent” who are flourishing and not floundering, and are enjoying their best years ever, she said during her talk at The Grove in South Reno.

“We’re never going back to the way that things were (in 2004) when the economy was at an all-time high,” said Powell.

“Back then (before the dawn of social media and online commerce), you just opened the doors and in walked the business,” said Powell, whose background includes high-level leadership and executive positions in sales, marketing and finance for Fortune 500 companies.

“The current economy isn’t down; it’s different,” said Powell. In many industries, client loyalty is at an all-time low.

In a pull economy, “the consumer is driving the boat; they have all the power,” said Powell.

Technology and social media have been transformative in the way business now is conducted, especially on the sales end.

“The downturn changed how we buy – if we buy at all,” said Powell. Consumers are skeptical about products and services. Increasingly, they turn to family, friends and Google reviews to decide if they want to do business with you.

Some other takeaways from her presentation follow:

You have to attract the business before you ask for the business. “People can find products and services anywhere, but a sales person who investigates, connects and creates understanding is what a customer is looking for. Slow down and ask questions. Invest in the customers before they invest in you.” Do follow up after the sale.

• Employees want to feel that they are on a winning team. They want to hear what is working rather than listening to bosses and owners hollering ‘hard times’ and complaining they aren’t working hard enough.

• The three most dangerous words in business are “Our policy is…” Polices and procedures are great, said Powell, but sometimes you need to bend the rules or look for workarounds to get and keep business.

• Stay connected to your existing customer base. “Sell deep and capitalize on these” existing relationships, said Powell.


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