A big part of what I believe about “selling clean” with honesty and ethics is finding a way to use stories about yourself in the community that you live in. Part of getting to like your future buyers and to have them like you is spending the first part of the sales process finding common ground. That means directing the conversation away from anything that has to do with sales. You start talking about something that happened locally, like the recent Fourth of July fireworks or the high school football team that is on its way to the state finals.

In my town of Loveland, Colo., we have a small airport that displays World War II-era planes several times a year. So you can bet I ask my new customers if they saw the vintage planes. This is a conversation I like to get into first thing, because quite frankly, I want to find out where my customer lives. Selfishly, I want to make sure they live close enough to do the installation. My store is on a major highway that is the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park, so we have people passing by from almost every state in the country. The last thing I want to do is spend an hour with someone only to find out they live in Ohio.

The other day, I made the mistake of not paying attention to a customer’s location. A very sharp, young and very fit professional-looking couple came in shopping for stock slate. We don’t stock that, so I proceeded to tell them where they might go that has product in stock. Then I asked what their situation was and where their home was located. They explained that they were visiting friends in Loveland and lived near Denver, which is about an hour and a half drive. So, I told them about a few places I knew in the Denver area that should be able to help them. They thanked me and I walked them out the door.

When I got to the door, I noticed that they were driving a top-end Hummer. I jokingly commented, “I definitely would stay out of your way of that thing.” The man laughed, and they drove away. It took me about a minute, then it hit me. That guy was buff, sharp, obviously rich, and his wife looked like a model wearing about fifty grand in gold. I said to myself, “You idiot. That guy was a star defensive back for our World Champion Denver Broncos.” The next day, I got a call from the lady. “Hi Kelly, this is Mrs. (I won’t tell you the name),” she said. “We were in yesterday, and I had a few more questions I hoped you could help me with.”

Needless to say, it confirmed my strong hunch that I had an NFL star in my little town of Loveland. My mistake was first not finding out where they lived early on and not looking in the parking lot at the vehicle that they drove up in. If I had, I would have put together who I was meeting early on, and the conversation would have gone a different way. The big positive here was that I now have a story to tell my new buyers. It makes them feel good and makes them more interested in me as a person. When my next customers come in with a Bronco’s hat or jersey, you know what that conversation is going to be about. I might even get into showing my new friend some products.

Community is Your Common Ground

At the beginning of the summer, my wife Anne and I moved into our new home, which we spent the last year building. This is our dream home and we think of it as our retirement home. We acted as the builder, so we learned a great deal about what builders and new home buyers have to go through.

This house is on the main highway and faces Lake Loveland, so if you live in Loveland, you had to have seen it being built. This house quickly becomes a part of my conversation with my new customers. It has been such a great icebreaker. If a customer tells me they are adding an addition to their home, I ask them where their home is located. Then I explain that I just went through a similar process building my new home in town. Of course, it’s the house they were already curious about. They all want to know about the three stories and how we intend on handling the steps as we get older. The answer: an elevator.

The conversation gets fun because they are intrigued and have never seen an elevator in a home in our town. I get to brag, which makes me feel good. They can tell their friends that they have the inside scoop on the people who just built the tall three-story house by Lake Loveland. “It has an elevator, you know.” This bit of knowledge makes them feel good, and it’s a nice start for my new buyer and their new Trusted Sales Advisor. So that’s what works for me.

What you need to do is to find common ground for your own situation that relates to your community. It could be Boy Scouts, the church you attend, the local schools your kids both go to, or even the big fire that you both saw the smoke from. Simply become one of their community and share common interests. Then you have the start to becoming their Trusted Sales Advisor. I still get a big kick when a former buyer honks at me in my front yard on their way past. You know, just another member of the community. Thanks for reading.