My oldest son and I just returned from two fantastic days at Butler University in Indianapolis. Several events drew us to the campus this particular weekend. There was an admitted students reception prior to Saturday evening’s basketball game against highly-ranked Villanova, and the College of Business put on a full-day program Friday offering the opportunity to learn more about its Real Life. Real Business. approach, and to meet faculty, alumni and current students.
The visit was all we could have hoped for and also provided some powerful sales lessons to share with you here:
Lesson #1 – Personalized Communication and Attention to Detail Matters: One of the things that has stood out about Butler from the beginning is the personal touch. Communication from day one has been personalized. My son’s admission offer letter came with a personal note from his admissions counselor that highlighted something from his application essay. But it was this latest experience that blew me away. We had registered to attend the Saturday pre-game reception, but neglected to buy tickets for the big game. An admissions representative noticed this and emailed to let us know it didn’t look like we had purchased tickets and the game was almost sold out. I jumped on Ticketmaster to discover only a handful of seats still available and quickly grabbed two.
- Are you truly personalizing communications to prospects and customers or simply launching generic mass emails and phone calls? How well are you looking out for your customer’s needs and do you “have their backs” anticipating when they might drop the ball?
Lesson #2 – First Impressions Make an Impact: Our first visit to Butler was a year ago. We were literally just passing through on the way to see another college. Immediately, we took note of happy faces and sensed something unique about the culture. Since we were not on a tour, we simply wandered into the College of Business unescorted. The receptionist greeted us as if we had arrived in a presidential motorcade and spent ten minutes espousing her love for the school and students. We still talk about that first impression. This picture from Friday was another great example (and sales lesson) about the power of hospitality and a proper greeting. Butler Blue III (aka Trip), the school’s adorable and ever-present mascot, welcomed us and got my dog-loving son’s visit off to a happy start!
- When a customer visits your office or facility, how are they treated? Is there a plan to make guests feel valued and special? Are you creating a positive memorable moment? Does your receptionist understand the power of first impressions and truly “receive” visitors, or does he/she see guests as interruptions?
Lesson #3 – Your Story is a Powerful Sales Weapon When You Share Examples, Case Studies and Outcomes: No surprise that I’m bringing up the sales story for the 97th time; you know how strongly I feel about the importance of client-issue-focused story. Butler did a brilliant job of sharing their story in a way that was client (student & parent) focused, not all about their wonderful school. The two sessions that had the greatest impact involved alumni and students sharing personal stories (case studies) of their experience at the school and the outcome that resulted. Hearing about job placement rates is one thing, but actually hearing specific examples and actual stories is infinitely more powerful.
- How much of your sales story is spent spewing facts (features) about your offering or telling prospects how great you think your company/solution is instead of sharing the real stories of how you’ve helped improve the lives and businesses of your clients? Examples and case studies trump sales speak and self-focused features everyday!
Lesson #4 – Executive Selling is a Differentiator: It didn’t go unnoticed that the dean of the College of Business spent a good part of the day with us. Beyond that, he personally visited with parents and prospective students to introduce himself and to ask and answer questions. At one point in the day I was walking beside him on the way to a session. After our brief chat, he invited me to contact him any time. It was a nice touch and it made me feel special. It is safe to assume that he made many parents and students feel special that day.
- Are you maximizing the impact of key executives during your sales process? How can you better deploy senior leaders at your company to help open doors or close deals? Don’t underestimate the power your highest-level leaders can have on a prospect!
Lesson #5 – Hustle and Fearlessness Go a Long Way: Let’s just say I’m incredibly thankful the admissions person sent that reminder to get our tickets for the game. We’ll always remember this first visit to the legendary Hinkle Fieldhouse, even if we were about as far away from the court as you could be 🙂 What a fantastic experience. And while the Bulldogs didn’t pull off the upset, they put on quite a show. Villanova was not only higher-ranked, they were bigger and faster and could shoot the lights out from 3-point land. But Butler out-hustled them all night, even out-rebounding their taller opponents (34 to 25). The Bulldogs played fearless basketball, and in spite of ridiculous outside shooting from Villanova, almost pulled out a victory.
- Are you putting everything you have into your sales effort? Are you willing to go head-to-head against powerful competitors believing you can out-sell and out-work them? Are you selling scared or playing to win with an abundance mentality?
Lesson # 6 – A Supportive Fanbase and Positive Culture Keeps Your Heart Engaged: We had very high expectations of the atmosphere inside Hinkle Fieldhouse and the actual experience did not disappoint. What an environment! 9250 people jammed into an arena to support their beloved Bulldogs. Awesome Pep Band. Crazed students. Fun cheers. It may have been the best two hours I’ve spent at any sporting event. But as powerful and energizing as the culture was during the game, it’s the response of the students in the Dawg Pound after the game that was most memorable. As the Butler players left the court following the loss, their fellow students gave them a raucous standing ovation. That’s right, a standing ovation following a painful loss. Forget the fact that it gave me a lump in my throat. Just ponder the message it sent to the players and how it would affect their reaction to the loss and desire to come back strong next game.
- Who’s cheering for you and playing in your sales pep band? How is your company supporting you and your teammates emotionally? What are you doing to keep your heart fully engaged and maintain intensity and passion?
It was a great weekend at a great university that provided a great experience and some great sales takeaways for all of us.