How To Sell Like You’re Building A Tribe

Meet Ed Etheridge.

A staple at the local Farmers’ Market, Ed is my go-to guy for fruit. Every Thursday like clockwork, I check in with him to taste what’s new, hear his stories about organic farming and buy my week’s supply.

Ed’s joy is introducing as many people as possible to his family’s work of art and abiding passion—organic fruit.

What is that if not tribe-building?

The beauty of how Ed sells is that you can use the same elements to build your tribe, whether you’re pitching advice, books or products. On-line or off-line. The key is in the experience you offer your audience.

Deep expertise AND passion. Ed can wax poetic on the differences between Santa Rosa plums and Black Beauties. He can talk about the effect of the drought and what it means for the future of organic farming. Just know that these two are closely intertwined—expertise without passion is a soulless transaction and passion without knowledge is amateur territory.

Consistency. With Ed, I know I can expect a friendly greeting. He’ll ask about my week, remember that he’ll need to coax me to try persimmons (but is up for the challenge). Being reliable is essential—and vastly underrated. Your audience needs to know they can count on you for what you’ve taught them to expect.

Tell me a story. Trucking water in during the drought and how it changes the daily life of farming (and pricing) is fascinating when told as story. Or how they decide which fruit to grow when. You CAN educate your audience about your worldview without putting them to sleep. Just tell us a story…

Premium pricing/positioning. Ed’s products are usually priced a bit above supermarket organics, although his taste far better. But here’s the thing: a visit to the Farmers’ Market doesn’t REPLACE the need to shop at the grocery store. And yet even with a premium price AND more effort on my part to get to his booth, I still can’t get enough. How would your selling shift if you could do that with your business?

Surprises. One of my favorite things about the Etheridge booth is there is always a surprise. They rotate their products so that it’s never the same display twice. Counterintuitive when clients like consistency? Not really—the juxtaposition of the trusted and familiar with (good) surprises ups the excitement factor.

Scarcity. At a Farmers’ Market, there is only so much they can truck in. The best stuff—the sweetest grapes, the delicate mandarins, early-season figs—goes fast. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Creating that feeling that your client or buyer is going to miss something is a powerful incentive to buy right now.

All of these can help you grab the attention of your sweet-spot audience. But let’s not forget the Holy Grail of tribe-building—developing and nurturing a relationship with your buyers/readers.

Creating shared experiences over time (consistently, with expertise, passion and the occasional surprise) is how you build strong bonds and true community. And maybe even learn to love pomegranates.

Tweetable Question: What’s been your best tribe-builder? @ConsultingChick

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  • Great post, Rochelle–a wonderful ‘hit list’ of things to remember when you’re trying to differentiate yourself. As a writer, I’m especially sensitive to the ‘tell them a story’ bullet–yes and yes! We may not gather round the campfire so much anymore, but we still love an engaging story…

  • Rochelle,
    Thank you again for the focus on building your tribe, those who follow you. Not always sure you need to know them per se. Some years ago I wrote a weekly column and would share it via email to different contacts in media, public officialdom, politics and friends. I found over time, years later, it would get shared around; I would meet folks who were staff back then; now they held public office in their who knew me through the columns.
    It looks like the same approach with my new book (albeit it comes at modest cost) which helps establish me with a new (I hesitate to use generation but perhaps a new “set” might be better) round of officials and staff. 11-13 years ago without the social media of today, I needed to rely more on email. Today, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and my own website enable me to share frequently and effectively.
    I also try to share a willingness to mentor to help bud new relationship with those I need to interact with often to the benefit of clients and their causes.

    • Rochelle

      Thanks Corey–social media makes it so much easier to touch our tribes, doesn’t it? But it’s great when we can still interact “live”…

  • Thanks Rochelle,
    You always have the uncanny ability to make me focus at times when the vision has been blurred.

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