How to sell your grandmother

A zealous salesperson is often said to be willing to ‘sell their own grandmother, given half a chance’. This may be a humorous and harsh colloquialism but the old adage that ‘cash-flow is the lifeblood of any organisation’ rings true for all businesses the world over.


Selling doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Business development, marketing, pitching and placing value on your time are key strategies in aligning strategy and sales. Citrus Tree works with many organisations of varying sizes and we see the same repetitive themes negatively influencing sales and ultimately the success of the business.


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Based on these findings we have identified ten basic steps to help businesses increase revenue:

1) The 5% rule

When quoting add an additional 5% to your quote. There are always unforeseen additional items you have missed in the quoting process. Allowing a small buffer covers this. If you have a good relationship with your clients you will never miss a quote by 5%. Secondly if you do need to negotiate you know you have a little ‘wiggle room’.

2) Look for the leaks

Time keeping and ‘scope creep’ go hand in hand. It’s important to be firm yet fair with your customers. When something is outside of scope, have a conversation with your clients early. Explain the additional value you are providing and the associated investment required to deliver it.

3) Don’t discount

Your skills and your offering are a premium service. Don’t initiate the discount conversation. Customers don’t expect a discount and if you provide one, it instantly affects your bottom line. Of course on occasion customers may ask for a better deal or a discount. This is a negotiation. What is the customer willing to give up for you to deliver at the price they want.


4) Don’t give things away

Too often we see our clients giving away their offerings for free, especially in professional services. This always perplexes me. When I enjoy a meal in a restaurant, go to the movies or get a haircut I expect to pay. Your offering is no different.

5) Compete on price or quality, not both

Customers either invest with you or they treat you as an expense. Ultimately you want your customers to invest with you. To achieve this, you must offer a premium service at a premium price. If you travel business class, you value quality, a good sleep and arriving at your destination refreshed and ready to go. If you choose to fly EasyJet, service is secondary to price. Your customers are intelligent; they will engage with you based on their perception of quality or price.

6) Ditch the imposter

More relevant to small business owners is the ‘imposter syndrome’. The internal dialogue that creates insecurity around your offerings and your ability to deliver them. Customers come to you because you do the things that they cannot. They will always pay a premium price for a premium service, don’t be afraid to charge. Be careful when pricing projects that you don’t place an ‘imposter’ valuation on your work, effectively discounting because you mistakenly perceive you are not worthy of that rate.

7) Perceived value

When working with your customers, try to focus on the value you are bringing to their business, not on your expense to deliver it. Perceived value is all about what a customer is willing to invest with you based on the return they expect to get. Focus on the outcomes rather than the inputs and price accordingly.


8) Never assume

One of my favourite true stories is that of a CEO purchasing a new car (known by the author). She was casually dressed after a gym session on a Saturday morning and on her journey home called into a luxury car dealership. Based on her casual attire, she was disregarded by the salesman as she perused BMWs on the lot. The CEO repeatedly tried to engage with the salesman without success. In frustration, she exited the dealership and strolled to her luxury car parked out the front. This obviously caught the eye of the salesman and he literally chased her down the street. The damage was done and to my knowledge the CEO has never been back but has made significant purchases with other dealerships since! Do your homework and never assume the value of your client!

9) Referral selling is the best-selling

Customers are many more times likely to purchase off you if they have been referred by a friend or business acquaintance. Don’t be afraid of asking your customers if they know of anyone else they could introduce you to. Getting an introduction is a great well to sell.

10) Up-sell

Research has proven it is six times easier to go back to your client and sell them new offerings than to hunt down a new customer and engage anew. Look after your existing clients, share your insights and offer to help grow their business.

These are foundational building blocks to any sales strategy. Focus on these fundamentals and your sales will be one of abundance, rather than scarcity.


graham200By Graham Dockrill 

Graham is an entrepreneur with a passion for start-ups, especially in the FinTech sector. Having established several successful businesses of his own in New Zealand, the United States and United Kingdom, Graham works alongside start-ups and businesses wishing to grow or move into new markets.  

He is currently the President of Sales for Citrus Tree Consultants, a global business consultancy and President of Client Relations at WhosOnLocation, a visitor management software startup based in Wellington with global clients. Graham is also a strategy and client relationship advisor for many startups in New York and the United Kingdom.