What do you say when you call on potential buyers or the top executives of your clients organizations? If you’re like most, you’ll do some chit chat and then say something similar to, “I just wanted to check on how we’re doing with the XYZ project.” Then probably before you leave, you’ll say, ...What do you say when you call on potential buyers or the top executives of your clients organizations? If you’re like most, you’ll do some chit chat and then say something similar to, “I just wanted to check on how we’re doing with the XYZ project.” Then probably before you leave, you’ll say, “Are there any new projects coming up that we can help with or participate in?”
Both questions are self-centered, reactive questions. Yes, reactive. Even though in the second question you’re asking about future business, you’re not causing change. You’re waiting for the person to tell you what he’s going to do and hopefully allow you in. That’s reactive. Self centered because you’re asking how “we” are doing or how “we” can help. This is all about you even though it relates to his world.
To become more effective on your visits (that is leave with something tangible), get into your clients worlds, as if you were just trying to learn about it. Ask questions that will reveal their current state of mind relative to their job or the project - not as it relates to you or your company. Once you understand their concerns, you can determine if you can fit and if so you’ll be able to offer suggestions to help create the desired changes.
See if you understand the difference between the following questions from the questions in the first paragraph.
“How’s the XYZ project going?” vs. “I just wanted to check on how we’re doing with the XYZ project.”
The difference is it lets the person think of the XYZ project as it relates to him rather than how it relates to you. As he answers you’ll get a broader understanding of this person’s mindset beyond your participation. If you use the “we” then he’ll start thinking of you’re involvement, which narrows his focus. Then to minimize time and to spare your feeling he’ll be brief, “You’re doing fine,” or “It’s OK, but I wish we had something.”
In other words you won’t learn much, not even about you’re participation. However, if you just ask about the project, using the “you / your” focus, his mind is free to go anywhere related to the project and you’ll get more information about his feelings. And this information can be useful later to sell him more of your other services. You’ll also get a better understanding of your position relative to his bigger picture.
“What are some of your issues and concerns with upcoming projects?” vs. “Are there any new projects coming up that we can help with or participate in?”
The difference here is it gets the person to reveal what’s on his mind about his job as it relates to the upcoming project, etc. If you listen, he’ll say what’s bothering him or what needs to be done in the future (changes). These may be areas where you can offer ideas and solutions before he finalizes what he’ll do. And if you’re prepared to pepper him with other ideas you can get him thinking beyond his original boundaries into other services (that you offer) he hadn’t thought about. Now that’s proactive.
Based on his answers, you can decide if you want to participate, and if so, you’ll be seen as a consultative sales person rather than a vendor. You’ll be able to offer solutions to a broader area of pain, which enables you to sell more. You’ll also be able to determine if he’s a looker or a doer. That is, willing to exert the effort required to produce the changes. If he’s not, you’ll get out quickly. But if he is, you’ll be the resource he’ll want to use.
The differences in the questions are subtle, but profound. Most people genuinely feel they are asking the other person to talk about themselves and their situation. Yet the way they ask the questions, unconsciously limits the responder’s answers. Once you put the “I” or the “We” into your questions, the other person feels it’s all about you wanting to sell him and consequently becomes guarded with his answers.
Test yourself. Next time you leave a voicemail, play it back before you hang up and see if you are “I” oriented or “you” oriented.
So keep it all about him. Start all you questions with the word “You”. This will be extremely difficult at first. Just try it. You’ll quickly see it is not easy to just focus on the other person.
For more selling insights go to www.sammanfer.com and review other articles.
Sam Manfer provides powerful selling information through articles, books, and seminars for Relationship Selling at C-Levels, Effective Sales Calls and all other selling skills. Visit www.SamManfer.com. to see more inspiring articles and to register for his free Selling Wisdoms E-zine.