Are You a Cultivator or a Harvester?

As a result of providing marketing consulting, training and coaching to a variety of individuals and industries over the years, I have come to recognize that people generally approach the business building process in one of two ways. Everyone tends to be what I identify as either Cultivators or Harvesters. The problem is the business building process requires both cultivation and harvesting. Read on to determine which you are and how to assure that you are both cultivating and harvesting new business.

Harvesters are the great sales people of the world. These are the people that don't mind, may even enjoy, spending two or three hours a day cold calling. They willingly spend a day starting at the first floor of an office building and visiting every office on every floor to try and get an appointment. Harvesters will close business. However, they also tend to leave a lot of green fruit on the tree because their approach is geared towards those individuals who have a need now and are willing and able to purchase ? the so called low hanging fruit. Harvesters tend to move from orchard to orchard seeking out and picking whatever fruit is ripe at the time. They are constantly seeking out a new orchard that might have ripe fruit.

Cultivators tend to rely on the other elements of the promotional mix such as advertising, direct mail, networking and public relations activities to develop business. Cultivators prepare the soil, plant the seeds, nurture the seedlings, and provide care to the fruit as it ripens. They grow their own orchards so they have an ongoing supply of ripe fruit. However, Cultivators sometimes are so busy tending to the orchard that they forget to pick the fruit, leaving it either for the Harvesters as they make their daily rounds or to rot on the tree.

Clearly, in an ideal world the Cultivators and the Harvesters would work together to assure a constant supply of ripe fruit and to be sure that the ripe fruit is picked daily before a competitor picks it or it spoils. That is why in large corporations you will find both a marketing function and a sales function. However, most small businesses don't have the luxury of two separate functions. Many small business owners have to both cultivate and harvest new business as well as oversee or even implement the myriad of other functions required to keep a business going.

The purchase decision involves a process of moving from unawareness to awareness, awareness to preference or liking and finally to conviction and purchase. Promotional activities such as advertising and direct mail are most effective in the awareness building stage. Public relations activities and networking tend to be most powerful in the preference and liking stage. Direct selling tends to be the activity that actually closes sales.

Blair Singer in his book Sales Dogs says "The more marketing you do, the less selling effort you have to deal with. Prospects put up their hands and come looking for you instead of your having to sniff them out. It's the art of having sales opportunities come to you" In effect what he is saying is the more effort you put into cultivating your orchard, the less time you have to spend out looking for fruit in other people's orchards. The challenge for Cultivators is to make sure they call on the prospect once they've raised their hand.

If you're a Harvester how can you develop cultivation skills? · Implement activities to develop awareness that allow you to reach many potential customers in less time than it would take you to reach each one individually.

. For example send out a predetermined number of letters each week to prospective customers you have not met and that may not yet be aware of your product or service.

· Develop systematic ways to stay in contact with prospects that are not currently ready to purchase such as a regular newsletter.

· Develop credibility through active involvement or a leadership role in a trade association or organization that your potential customers are involved in.

If you are a Cultivator how can you assure you are harvesting the rewards of your work?

· Initiate one-on-one follow-up when someone expresses interest. Don't expect even very interested people to follow-up with you.

· Don't approach the initial meeting as a "sales" meeting. Rather than trying to sell, use the initial meeting as an opportunity to really learn about the prospects, their problems and their needs.

· Learn to love objections. If someone has an objection to your product or service at least they have an interest. An objection is easier to deal with than a lack of interest any day.

· Rethink your attitude toward closing a sale. Think of it as gaining commitment for an action.

If you are a Cultivator, the harvest will never be your favorite time of the growing season. If you are a Harvester you will never relish the work it takes to grow and ripen the fruit. However, successfully building new business requires both.

© 2003 STRATEGIES-BY-DESIGN May be reprinted with credits and contact information.

Julie Chance is president of Strategies-by-Design, a Dallas-based marketing consulting firm specializing in marketing programs including marketing coaching for professional service providers and specialty retailers. If you are interested in additional information about how to develop more leads, turn those leads into loyal customers, and obtain a greater return from your marketing investment, Julie invites you to sign-up for their free marketing tips newsletter at http://www.strategies-by-design.com.

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