What if every time your prospect or customer felt like you were pushing your products, rather than focusing on his business, he transformed into a Hollywood Director and screamed, “Cut. Boring! Let’s talk about MY business!” Assessing your approach to sales, how many times do you think you’d hear that?
A recent interaction with my boys made me step back and evaluate my approach to advising them. And then I started thinking about how salespeople often take the same approach when advising their customers.
This is what happened:
It was a typical night, my family and I were all sitting around the dinner table. As usual we were talking about our day, sharing stories about our highs and lows and because I have 3 boys, ages 9, 7 and 2… my husband and I consistently use the dinner table as a training ground (sometimes battlefield) to work on their manners. After all, good manners (at the table and away from the table) will be of great value to them today and throughout their lifetime. That fact is unquestionable and irrefutable, yet it’s not always simple to convey. Case in point, I was telling my boys how poorly they acted during a recent trip to the grocery store, and I started into the familiar adult rhetoric about “what my mother used to tell me” thinking it might resonate with them. After about 2 minutes into the conversation, my seven year old interrupted me with the command of a Hollywood Director and said, “Cut. BORING! Let’s talk about super heroes!” He literally stopped me dead in my tracks!
Most parents know good manners are an outward expression of one’s consideration, kindness, empathy, respect, and integrity. And we also know that these characteristics are the basis for building strong meaningful relationships. Furthermore, we know that children need to build strong relationships throughout their lifetime, and during every stage of their life to experience success. Whether it’s their teacher, their little league football coach, their teammates, their siblings, their bus driver, their cousins, or their friends… good manners will help them strengthen each and every relationship. Children will, in fact, experience first hand the benefits of their manners, and using (or not using) manners will directly affect them throughout their life. So why is it so hard for parents (please tell me I’m not alone) to get children to be interested in learning about manners?
The same question could be asked about customers. Why is it so hard for salespeople to get their customers interested in their incredible products and services? After all, these products and services will greatly benefit their business. Why aren’t they interested in something that will provide tremendous value? My guess is perhaps the benefit has not been communicated to the customer in a manner in which he identifies with it.
When looking deeper into the scenario with my boys, I realized my approach was severely flawed. I told my boys they acted inappropriately, and needed to simply learn how to direct their energy into positive behavior next time we go to the store. I told them how frustrated I was when we were checking out, how I’m not looking forward to going back to the store with them, and they just need to act better. Basically, I was making a demand for change based solely on me. I did not consider my audience, nor did I attempt to modify my approach… I just expected them to understand and follow my direction, because I’m their mother. I never once talked about HOW changing their behavior would greatly benefit them and support what they value. I was unintentionally being self-centered in my approach. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure my message fell on deaf ears.
You see, I didn’t give them the direction they really needed in a way that enabled them to understand HOW following it will provide great value and benefit to them, and not me? After all, my goal is to give them direction and guidance to help them be successful and grow. And isn’t that the same goal great salespeople work to achieve with their prospects and customers?
Looking back, I remember all three of them staring at me with glazed over eyes and a look of confusion. My words translated probably sounded more like blah, blah, blah. I’m sure that’s when my seven year old had enough and tried to redirect the conversation (he’s the funny one).
This got me thinking about how often salespeople fail to be customer focused and instead take an unintentional self-centered approach with their customers. A self-centered salesperson pushes products and/or services, and will list the many reasons WHY their customers should simply buy. Just like I was pushing my boys to “just change.” They don’t take the time to translate HOW using their products or services will provide value to their customer or HOW making a change would greatly benefit them. And when a salesperson starts talking about WHY their products or services are so great, I imagine the customer checks out (just as my boys did) and considers abandoning his manners for a brief moment to redirect the conversation and say, “Cut. Boring. Let’s talk about MY business!”
High performing sales people, the ones customers refer to as partners, strive to speak their customer’s language. And, they always make certain to give recommendations and direction in a way that enables their customers to understand HOW following their advice will provide great value and benefit to them—not the sales person. The star of the conversation should be the customer and his business. His needs, goals, and challenges, should take center stage… not the sales person or his products.
Want more ideas on how to improve sales performance? Download our Hourglass Needs Analysis to learn steps that will make your sales calls more effective.Demrie Henry is a Performance Consultant at The Center for Sales Strategy.