The Three Musketeers and a simple lesson in advancing your sale

Last night at dinner I was telling my son about Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel “The Three Musketeers,” which I had just finished.  “It was like reading ‘The Adventures of Zorro,’” I said.  “Someone dies by sword in just about every chapter.” 

Why did he write that way?  Because he sold his novels chapter by chapter on the street, sort of like “Extra! Extra! Read all about it.  Musketeer trapped by Milady DeWinter!” To his credit, my son said, “Like Dickens did.”  That is true.  Charles Dickens sold his novels in this same way. People on the street would pay to see what will happen in Chapter Four of “A Tale of Two Cities,” for example.

It interests me that as far back as the 1800’s, novelists discovered that one way to make money was to draw the attention of readers for a very small price, build on their attention and continue to make money from them.  Even today writers are still experimenting.  The prolific writer Stephen King put an entire novel up on the web for free, in order to develop new readers’ interest in his other printed work.

My lesson to you on today’s Fable Friday is that when you devise a sales strategy for a specific market, industry and customer base, you should think about how you will do what Dumas and Dickens did, building  interest in your offering, and keeping your prospects and customers in a constant dialog with you.

 To illustrate this point I asked the learners in a sales workshop last month how many of them have ever had to collect a bad loan.  Only a few hands went up.  (Rant: Thirty years ago all the hands would have gone up. Today banks have Collection Departments, so that lenders can continue making poor loans they don’t have to collect themselves. When I was a banker I collected all my bad loans and it made me a wiser lender. Rant off.) The trick in collection is that every time you speak with the debtor you extract a promise.  “So on Friday you are going to pay $100 on this loan, is that right?”  Then on Monday you have a reason to call again, either to praise the debtor or learn why the promise was broken.

This approach works the same in consultative selling of wealth products, insurance and commercial financial services, such as loans or cash management.  Tell the prospect, “We’ve made a lot of progress today. Here’s what I’m going to do with this information. I’ll meet with my team and come back to you on Tuesday.  Meanwhile, here is what I want you to do to move us along.” 

Many sales professionals tell me, “I already know what I’m presenting when I come back, but this way I build interest about the solution.”  Also, giving your prospects simple tasks to do gets them engaged and advances your sale.

So you can learn something from these dead authors huh? 

Dumas made a lot of money from his adventure novels, but he lived just as adventurously, and died penniless in 1870, so maybe in the long run he didn’t plan everything just right.

But he did give me an idea for a trivia question for you.  What were the names of the Three Musketeers, and who was D’Artagnan?  First correct response gets a gift card from Starbucks.  Let’s hear from you.

 As NBC News anchor Brian Williams would say, “I hope to see you right back here next Friday.” Newsletter goes out on Tuesday.

 Think Like Your Customer!