Give the prospect a little extra, even if he never buys!

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The “baker’s dozen” – buy 12, get a 13th free. The bakery nearest my home sells donuts and bagels that way. I like it. It keeps me, and lots of others, coming back. It’s certainly good marketing in today’s tough business climate because it gives that something extra that makes customers or prospects feel valued.

The “baker’s dozen” (aka the “long dozen”) isn’t new, of course. It can be traced back to 13th century England when King Henry III threatened severe punishment for any baker who shortchanged customers. So, a baker would give 13 for the price of 12 to be certain he wasn’t labeled a cheat.

In today’s boating business, the concept of the “baker’s dozen” could be a winner in the form of some extra product or service a dealer could provide . . . an extra gallon(s) of gas . . . a free buff and wax during service . . . a gift or coupon for a future consideration, and so on. Such ideas are a bonus for being an existing customer or a way of keeping a new customer by giving extra value.

But what about a prospect who hasn’t bought anything, yet, and may never buy? Can we “baker’s dozen” him in some form? Yes, if realtor Matt Fotis is any indication. Fotis is a senior associate at Marcus & Millichap in Brooklyn, N.Y. He and I have never met face-to-face but we’ve had a relationship for more than a year.

I owned a building in Brooklyn that I decided to sell it when I was approached with a good offer by a neighbor. About the same time, Fotis called indicating he’d heard I might be selling the building and, of course, offered his firm’s services. I declined, explaining I had a buyer and had a deal. That’s when Fotis started what could be dubbed his “baker’s dozen” concept. Saying commercial property deals can take a lot of time and many unexpected turns these days, he politely asked if he could send me a free area sales report along with information on his firm, “just in case.” He also asked if he could keep in touch with me until my deal closed.

Ah, I recognized it -- that rule-of-thumb every good salesman should live by: “Stick with the prospect until he either buys or dies!” Over the next year, Fotis diligently kept his “baker’s dozen” going with such things as a monthly postcard, e-mail, area sales reports, updated market analysis and phone calls to touch base. “Business boils down to follow-up,” Fotis says. “You can work with a guy for years and if you give up and fail to call you won’t be there when he decides to buy.”

He was right – it took a long time to conclude the sale (the financing process was brutal – go figure!) However, throughout the year, he very effectively made sure he was top-of-mind should I need the services of a realtor. The sale closed last week. Fotis was class all the way -- the first to congratulate me even though he never got any business from his year-long effort. His attention to me as a prospect -- giving that something extra even when there’s no guarantee of a sale -- is a worthwhile lesson for all our sales teams.

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