An account manager, during a review of his sales performance and knowing his numbers were down, said, by way of excuse to his manager said, “Richard, I can lead a horse to water, but I can’t make them drink.”
“Make them drink?” Richard retorted. “Making customers drink is not your job. Your job is to make them thirsty! When they are thirsty they will drink.”
The most common challenge business and sales people face is coming to an understanding that selling is not something we do that makes a sale occur – it is something the client does. At some point in the sales process the client decides what it is we are selling will satisfy a need and quench their thirst.
So the question is, “how do you create the thirst?”
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There are four main strategies we can use to create curiosity – and to remain curious through the sales process.
Be provocative with questions and statements
Provocative questions and statements are the most powerful ways to generate curiosity.
When you make that first call what can we say that is provocative, bold and will shake your client out of their current mind set and pay full attention to you?
You may want to try something like this;
“Hi Ben, this is Greg from Acme Jones Associates. I have a question. I was reading about your company …. and was wondering if you had ever thought…?” Or perhaps
“Hi Mary, this is Jenny from Acme Jones Associates. I was talking to Merna Balwin of Main Main & Main and wondering if you have experienced the same market challenges as they do?”
Provide some of the information
Another challenge business and sales people face is the urge to tell someone everything straight away. I call this ‘showing up and throwing up’. Once there is nothing let to give what value is there in a follow-up call? The key to building and maintaining a long term relationship is to continue adding value with each conversation. If you leave the client curious after the end of each call there is always a reason to call back or to schedule another meeting. Try things like these;
“Hi Mary, we met with Mohammed and ran those tests on the production line over the past few days and I think there may be some serious problems.” or
“We have evaluated the supply chain process and compared it to the industry norms in you market sector and found some anomalies.”
These statements tell a part of the information and are designed to stimulate curiosity. A typical response would be “What kind of problem?” or “What sort of anomalies?”
Of course we do not want to tell them all so we move into something like the following;
“Yes – I will get to that. Would you mind if I ask a few questions first?” and move into a conversation with the full attention of the client. Of course we need to share some of the information – but always leave something on the table to come back with.
Provide a glimpse of value
In this technique we dangle an idea that could deliver value and then move to start a conversation. It could go something like this;
“Well, John, with just one small change to the manufacturing process you could dramatically improve your return on investment. Would you like me to show you how?”
The response “Sure – what do I need to do?”
“Before I launch into that do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” and the conversation is on its way…
Are they a part of the herd ?
If everyone else is moving in the same direction most people want to know what direction that is. This is classic ‘herd mentality’. Try something like this;
“Well, Mr Jones, we solve a very important problem that most of the companies in your industry have.”
Almost without fail the response is “What problem is that?”
Today’s question and Actions
Curiosity is a powerful tool to get conversations started. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- What are the most unusual applications for your service or product?
- Call your best clients and ask them the question “What is it that keeps you buying from me / us?” or “What are the key problems / issues our product solves for you?”
- Turn the question around and ask yourself “If I were being called about my product or service what would the person need to say to grab my attention?”
Use the answers to these questions to create conversation starters. Develop the habit of creating curiosity and you will always have a valid reason to call on your clients.