The Most Important Question Never Asked

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Do you help small businesses in any way, shape or form?

If you do, my guess is you aren’t as helpful as you think you are – especially when that small business reaches out to you for help.

Let’s back up.   I’ve witnessed in the field (trade shows especially) and on the phones, thousands of interactions between small business owners and providers of everything from office vending services to website creation to customized printing over the years.  Nary do I hear the right kind of question asked when that glorious opportunity arises.

Usually I see or hear a face palming like fail (though few realize it till it is pointed out to them).

When that small business person inquires about a product: the sales/ service/ company rep will often say something like:

“That’s great, it’s a very popular widget as you know, is there a specific model you’ve been thinking about already?”  or  “Sure, let me fill you in – most clients choose from 1 of 3 types,  each with its set of services….”  Or  “OK – it’s time for a new vendor you’ve said – you are looking around and you are probably wondering what sets us apart…”

Ugh.  Even worse is that the above examples are trained still today as good things to say in some organizations.

Here’s how to stop doing that.  And actually help your small businesses better 🙂

When a small business owner calls you, emails you or stops by looking for some help, information or assistance, you must first ask:

“What’s happening in your business that is driving your interest in ________?”

There are variations of the above but here is the point:. Whether you represent payroll services, website development, custom printing, insurance products, widgets or trinkets;

Knowing the businesses’ motivations helps you match your product or service exactly to those motivations (improving immediate sales success) and can help you articulate any expanded portfolio ( now or in the future) of your products/services that truly help that small business. 

Here’s an example done right;

  • Prospect: – “I’m curious. I know you build widgets and I’m looking for some pricing and info..“
  • You: “Sure – let me ask you first, what’s happening in your business right now that is driving your interest in the widget?”
  • Prospect: “. Well we’ve added a whole new group of products nobody knows about yet and I’m breaking into 2 more states is the plan – so I’ve got to look a little more professional I think too…”
  • You: “Perfect.  Let’s take a look at some widgets that get your name out faster and wider and there’s a couple of widgets that give a customized look too..”

It sounds obvious.  It’s not.

It’s not about what product or service the prospect is interested in; it’s about what is driving that interest that matters.  The motivation, the challenges, the dreams and the drivers are what you must discover, remember and leverage in the selling process.

Challenge yourself, your business or your team to do better with these opportunities.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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I Don’t Care What You Want

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I don’t care what you want.    What I do care about is why you want it.

In sales today, it is more important than ever to get after the why because it is so dang easy to skip it.

You see, buyers of all types today walk into your business, or ring your phone, or fill out that form online, or open a chat box, or saunter up to your trade show booth or  even drive onto your car lot and tell you what they want.

They do that because they’ve done so much advance research online that they know (or think they know) exactly what they want.

Some of us think that is so cool, that this internet thing is doing the selling for us and by the time the buyer comes to us in our office or in our store – it’s a done deal.

But it ain’t.  And you know it.  Never before have buyers come in droves telling you what widget they want and then walk away, don’t call back,  don’t take a sample, don’t take a test drive and just don’t buy – let alone become a long term fruitful customer.   And we throw up our hands and say “What the heck, they wanted this thing!”   Some of us think it’s because of fierce competition, or that the leads are weak, or that the same internet that drove the prospects to us is making them too choosey.

But I’m here to tell it’s because you’re so enamored that the customer knows what they want that you are likely forgetting to take the time to ask why.

  • If I know why you want this widget and what good it will do for you or what problem it solves, then I’m going to be better at articulating why my business will be the best at providing it today and in the future with additional products and services I can provide.
  • If I know why you want this widget and why you’ve chosen me to bring this request to and what inspired you to swing by my doors or ring my phone then I’ll have a better sense of what is important you in a partner or provider – not just today but in the future as I look to retain and enhance your business with me.
  • If I know why you want this widget and how comfortable you are with this technology or space and perhaps who you admire who uses this widget then I can tailor my language, my sales approach and tell stories a lot better not just today but in the future when we are working together to expand your services with me.

There’s a lot more and different why’s to get after based on what you do – take the time to think them through and apply in your buyer interactions.

The point is this: More than ever, the prospect has something specific in mind when they come to you but that does not lesson the need of figuring out, as all great sales people do, the why behind the request.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Mark’s Blog

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Role Players

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image from inthenetsportsacademy.com

Role Players

The New England Patriots are going about it differently this year.  The players have only received Playbooks; they are not practicing.  Sure, they’ve had lots of meetings at camp discussing and talking about the plays, why they are constructed as they are and why the plays will work.  But not a single player has practiced the routes, the blocking schemes, the throws or the running plays.

Why would they bother?  It’s not real.  Heck most of the time in camp they are playing against each other on the same team!  How silly is that? Nothing counts and someone could get hurt and what’s the point of that?  Besides, they’ve studied the plays; they get it.

Not.

Of course the Patriots are practicing this year.  Of course the Patriots are learning their roles by practicing these routes, those blocking schemes, the throws and the running plays.

But we either hate doing that stuff or just don’t care about doing it.

The day I walk through a sales site and see a coach and a sales rep leaning up against some old file cabinets on a sidewall spontaneously practicing a customer scenario about objection handling; I’ll just about have my coronary and end it right there.  I have never ever seen that in real life.

The day I can go to 3 training sessions in a row (live or virtual) where the role play portion wasn’t cut off, or skipped due to time or just wasn’t part of the session – I’ll have that second coronary (well hopefully not with the medication I’m on now and the life changing behaviors I’d have adopted) but—you get the idea.

The day that sales manager from half way across the country Skypes his sales executive and forces her to go through the competitive differentiation portion of the conversation that’s going to soon happen in the C-Suite with a real customer, I’ll have that 3rd myocardial infarction (metaphorically of course).

Maybe I need to get out more often and this stuff happens all the time now.  But maybe it doesn’t.

The sad part is I have a lot of memories when people do some intense role play and apply that Playbook in sessions with their coaches or in war rooms or in “bull in the ring” sessions.   I have lots of memories where those people said, out loud, that that was the best part of working their boss or in the team meetings or in the training classes.

The Patriots aren’t fools.  They know they have roles to play.  And they know they need to play these roles and practice even when stuff ain’t real.   They know because when the time comes; they need to be ready.

And so do we.  Hut! Hut!.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter

I Love Dirty Jobs

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I love Discovery TV’s Dirty Jobs.  

They are always looking for new ideas for those dirty jobs.  I wonder if I should send a note to the producers and invite them to come out my way.

 

Dirty Jobs is a popular show where host Mike Rowe performs some of the most difficult and frankly, disgusting jobs done by real people.   These jobs run the gamut from the needed cleaning of shipping lane buoys ( crusted molting squishy marine life that needs to be chiseled off) to scuba diving for hippo poop at a zoo ( where else is it going to go?) and everything in between.

My wife loves Dirty Jobs too but I think she’s just in love with Mike Rowe.   He’s funny, smart and good looking.  Whenever the show pops on she’ll stop whatever she is doing and say “Oh, my Michael is on.”  Once, as she sat next to me on the couch watching the show, she began think out loud and dreamily blathered to nobody in particular, “I wonder if he’s married.”   (He isn’t).

Mike might be a smoldering hunk of handsomeness to some but truth is Dirty Jobs is a tribute to the people who do these jobs.  Mike Rowe simply adores these folks and it shows.  Most are people take great pride in either the “dirty job” at hand or they take pride in that the dirty job is just part of a larger endeavor that needs to get done right.  We here in our work have some jobs like these.  Jobs that are difficult and tough and hard and done by prideful, caring people.   They may lack the “ick” factor for TV but I’m betting they’d be some of the toughest work Mike and crew would love to try. 

Selling On The Phone:   Lots of rejection.  Lots of pressure.  Lots of importance.  Mike and crew would arrive and he’d strap on a headset and give selling a good try.   And he’d fail.  He’s get a lot of “no’s” and even more “annoyed” customers.  He’d get the kind of rejection Mike probably isn’t used to being a TV star and all.  But that’s OK because he would spend time with the pros who do sell well and then cut to a new scene where he’d share what he learned and say “It’s not really “selling” with these sales people, it’s more like they are helping out someone”.

Training:  Especially the “stand up in the classroom 10 hour day with the adults” kind.   This is simply exhausting stuff.  You have to be “on” all day.  Be on target, on message, on time and totally on hand with people who all learn differently and bring and array of attitudes to the party.   We’d give Mike a couple of hours to prep and have him lead the class.  By4 o’clock he’d be triple dog tired and barely able to speak.  No worries though, he’d turn slightly, smile into the camera and tell us how “crazy and tough” real trainers need to be to make learning happen.

Team Leader:  They’re the boss, the support, the help desk, the number watcher (and often the number cruncher), the master listener, the coach and oh by the way, they have one of the most difficult professions in the world; continually improving the performance of people (and sometimes 30+ people at a time).   Mike would set up in a cube and start leadering’ and Boom he gets an irate customer, then the system crashes ( everyone on paper!), the mid day numbers deadline comes and goes and then his boss walks by wondering where first pass of all the employee reviews are.  That’s enough and as Mike’s head is nodding in surrender he looks up at the camera and says “Boss’s day only comes once a year?  What a rip off!”

I think the producers of Dirty Jobs would like the opportunity to come here.  If they decide to come, do me a favor and keep it just between us.  My wife doesn’t need to know.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark