I grew up watching my father be a salesman, and got the chance to ride with him on sales calls from about 8 years old until high school.He knew how to attract new costumers and take care of existing ones. During that time, I never realized how much of an impact watching my dad would have on me. It wasn’t long until I began selling products for him in College. Everything from counterfeit detectors to office furniture. It seemed that if a business needed a product, my dad sold it. After college I found a position at a lumber yard where my primary job was to sell supplies for do it yourselfers and small contractors.
It may sound crazy, but I learned some incredibly valuable lessons that every Small Group leader needs to know:
1. Cold Calls are Warmer Than the Saying Implies.
I remember being so nervous while calling potential costumers that I would often get to the last digit of the phone number and hang up because I was so nervous that I would mess the call up. After months of this, I finally realized that ‘cold calls’ really aren’t that cold. My job wasn’t to sell an office full of furniture in one call. In fact, the only reason a salesman cold calls is to get an audience with a potential customer. This completely changed my perspective!
Remember Leaders: You don’t have to convince every person you call for the first time about their need for community. They’ll make that decision on their own over time. Your goal is to simply get an audience with that person. Whether you go out for coffee to meet them or simply get them to visit your LifeGroup, let people see the great value of community based on what they see in front of them.
2. Satisfied Customers Bring More Business than Charismatic Salespeople.
Sure, I could hook all the customers I wanted at first, but their business was short lived if they weren’t satisfied. I realized that cold calling may always be a necessity of building new business, but you grow faster when your customers tell others how happy they are with you! Everyone expects a salesman to push his own product, but people raise impressed eyebrows when costumers push your product without you knowing.
Remember Leaders: You are not the only person who can reach out to newcomers! You should not, and cannot, be responsible for every call to reach out! Divide calls to group members so that potential LifeGroup visitors get to hear from someone other than the ‘recruiter’ that they expect to be excited. If your group is growing community with one another, then people will naturally take the time to talk about it.
3. Continual Care Means Repeat Business
The first special order I sold at the lumber yard was a nightmare! What was supposed to take a week, 6 weeks! I remember being sick to my stomach every time I had to call my first customer and tell him that I was trying to get his cedar decking in, but it would be another week. At the very end of the whole ordeal I remember that Mr. Frye asked me to speak to my manager. I found out later that it wasn’t to complain. He simply wanted to thank us for what we had done to help him throughout the process to take care of him. Mr. Frye became a regular Do it yourself customer for us!
Remember Leaders: Following up and taking care of those in your group (even the tough ones) is what makes people realize that this isn’t a duty, it’s a real passion. Community fosters loving care for one another no matter the circumstances, and even when it looks like trials will never end, our impact is often far greater than we realize at first.
4. Relationships Build Lasting Business
As a grade school boy, I remember my dad selling a large order to a regular customer at cost. I said, “Why would you do that?! You’re not making any money!” My dad looked down and said, “Sometimes you need to help take care of people, it’s not just about the money. We’re friends.” Wow, what a lesson. That man still does business with my dad 15 years later because relationships build lasting business. Friends will stick out the hard times and realize there is more than the bottom line holding them together.
Remember Leaders: It’s easy to get so caught up in trying to “grow your group” in size, that you forget to actually “grow your group” in friendships. Groups may come and go, schedules may change, and people may have special needs in certain seasons, but we are in this to build lasting friendships that mirror Christ. Groups that exist to build relationships grow in time, but groups that exist to simply grow numbers fail quickly because they have no foundation!