So, I got a great call today. It was from “unknown” at “unknown number”. Suspecting the worst, I answered the phone in my best “ice-a-telemarketer” voice. A very pleasant woman’s voice identified the caller as being from Lawson Software. My “AND?” got a little more pointed. She said, “Now this is not a sales call, I just wanted to thank you for downloading our whitepaper on employee productivity” or something. I waited for the punchline. It seems like people who call and say it’s not a sales call are trying to fool you. That bugs me too. How stupid do they think we are? Anyway, I let her continue, even though my instinct was to hang up the phone.

Her next comment stopped me in my tracks. “Sir, I would like to send you a copy of Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink as a thank you for downloading our whitepaper.” I’ve wanted to read Tipping Point for a long time, and have heard great things about Blink as well. After she “verified my address”, she simply thanked me again for my download, and said the book would be there soon.

Wow! Talk about making a friend. I immediately went out to their website, and looked around – which brings me to my point: When you want to do business with a person, find a way to make your product or service relevant to them. Know who they are. I’m not sure how much market research went into their idea of offering me (or people in my demographic) a copy of Blink, but even if it was a shot in the dark, the idea was spot on.

If you are in sales, business development, or just representing yourself to your company’s customers, you have to learn what people WANT. If you can give it to them, if you can make them see that what you are manufacturing, selling, or servicing will give them what they want or need, you’re in.

Even if you don’t want to admit it, you’re in sales, regardless of what you do. If you’re not directly helping your company move forward in a marketing role or a sales role, you’re still selling yourself and representing your company to your management, to your family, to your friends.

So here’s a shot at me sharing with you some of my key sales principles:

1) Do your research. If you want people to pay attention to who YOU are and what YOU offer, know what THEY want. If you’re presenting to a company, know what its needs are. Do your research. In your individual relating, know who you’re talking to. Make certain that you spend time learning what interests them and what makes them tick.

2) Deliver. If you promise something, follow through. This is in both personal and professional commitments. A wise man once told me “promise a Neon and deliver a Porsche”. No truer words were said. Make promises of deadlines that you’re able to hit (and beat). Try to promise things one day later than you KNOW you can deliver. The other guy has a tendency to over promise, and under deliver. Don’t be that guy.

3) Don’t be afraid to say NO. Quality trumps quantity. Your best bet is to make sure that people know that if you say it’s going to be done, that it’s done right and not halfway. Then they know that if they make commitments based on your promises, that their commitments will be met. Here’s a good article about good manners and communication and how they facilitiate honoring committments.

4) Keep track of the little things in your relationships. This is what made Filofax so indispensable in its day. Dog’s name? Kid’s birthday? Anniversary? Remember what they are. I always appreciate that in others, and people will appreciate it in you.

5) Say “Thank You”, and say it with a material gesture. If someone does something good for you? Send them a $5 Starbuck’s gift card. It looks classy, and all you have to say is “The next latte’s on me. Thanks for what you’ve done to make my life easier”.

6) Keep your boss in the loop. Proactively communicate. Nothing shouts that you care about the responsibilities that you’ve been given more than telling people what you spend your time doing. Report what you’re doing and planning to do before someone has to ask you.

7) Find out what the people at the highest level of your company want, and find out what YOU can do to deliver it. The BEST way to do that is to have dinner with them. See if you can schedule that once a month, or once a quarter. Write down your goals, share them with them, ask what the company goals are, and how your goals fit in. Don’t be afraid to tell them where you want to be, and ask them to help you get there.

My last piece of advice for the week is, if you are miserable, change your situation. Brian Tracy introduced me to the concept of zero balance thinking, and it makes all kinds of sense to me. Listen to this here. Listen to what the question is, apply the principle, and I promise it will change your life.