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Kevin Price, Host of the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston) recently interviewed Chuck Blakeman.

About the interviewee

Chuck started and built eight businesses in 25 years in the U.S. and internationally, and now uses his leadership  experience to advise others. His company, Crankset Group, provides outcome-based mentoring and peer advisory for  business leaders worldwide in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).  

We have seven full-time and 14 part-time Stakeholders. Many of them are in Colorado, a few are elsewhere in the United States and some are in Europe, Africa and Asia.
We are on four continents, with presence in the U.S., Ireland, UK, Kenya, and China. One division of our business works solely with companies with 1-19 Stakeholders (employees) to help the owners get off the treadmill and build healthy businesses; the other division focuses on larger corporations to help them with the culture and hiring practices.
Our mission is “to provide tools for business leaders to make more money in less time, get off the treadmill, and get back to the passion that brought them into business in the first place.”

Tell us about why it is important for you to establish a relationship with your potential clients.

One of the biggest misconceptions in business is that my job is to make you aware of and understand my product, and if I do that, you will buy from me. But as we all know, people buy from people they know, like and trust.  The closer you get to a hug, the more likely you are to do business with one another.
With potential clients, it is more important to build a relationship than it is to communicate the features and benefits of my product. And the best way to do that is to build a great relationship with your existing clients, from whom the overwhelming majority of future clients come.

What do you do to establish relationship with the key players?

In principle, the same thing that I would to do establish a relationship with someone I would want to marry – Recency (how recently did you talk to me) and Frequency (how frequently do you talk to me?). I have to do both.
We have a “drip system” for staying in contact, and that drip system is full of things that our clients want to get from us – NOT product announcements or sales crap. We do workshops, talks, lunches, coffees, email, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc., and ALL of it is motivated by one question – Is this something that will add value to that person’s life or business?
Key Players do not have time to be “sold” to – but they will make time for things that bring value to their lives and make their jobs easier. Everything you do in “marketing” should be focused on that objective. If you meet their needs, they will follow up by wanting to hear about your product.

What sales techniques have you found as ineffective in developing relationships, which ones work, and why?

Serve, don’t sell. Nobody wants to be sold anything, but we all want to buy. How do we get people to want to buy? By finding out what they need and serving them with that, even if it has NOTHING to do with what I sell. Zig Ziglar was right – “Help enough other people get to their goals and you will get to yours.”
To that end, we have sometimes gotten a potential client a babysitter, an article, a new employees or a piece of software, because that is what THEY needed.  Key principle – meet people where THEY are at, not where YOU want them to be. You want them to buy, they have a different need. Meet that need and you can say anything you want.
One other sales technique – we vowed years ago to never talk about our business unless someone asked. We serve them, and if as a result, they want to know what we do, we tell them. We’ve made a lot more money that way then we ever did by stabbing people with our business cards and talking at them about how great we are. Serve, don’t sell.

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