I was talking to a great sales person the other day. We’ve been talking for several months about how to improve his prospecting. In our last discussion, he said, “Things have changed completely, I’m now having the right conversations with my prospects!”

It’s a common challenge, we struggle to get our customers to respond, we struggle to engage, we don’t make the progress we hope for.

The problem is we usually focus on our agenda, the things we want to talk about. Too often, that’s about what our company does and what our products do. Sometimes, we present these in the context of “Do you have these issues, we can help……..”

Sometimes, we may try to identify the customer potential needs for the things we do. Yet too often, the customer doesn’t know they should have those needs. Or we want to talk about their problems and challenges, but they may not have those problems–or at least recognize they have those problems.

We have to shift the conversations we are having with our customers. We have to engage them in discussing the things they want to talk about. It may be about the problems and challenges–they may have recognized there are things they could do differently.

The sales person I was talking to had shifted his strategy. He was talking to customers about what they wanted to talk about. Before attempting the call, he did some things:

  • He was more focused on contacting customers in his ICP. He knew they the things they would be more likely to want to talk about were things in which he could have a meaningful conversation.
  • He did his homework, researching the customer organization and individuals. He really wanted to figure out what they were most likely interested in talking about.
  • He was prepared, he started developing insights—not about his product, but about things that were happening in the customer’s industry and markets. He didn’t know what would resonate with them, but he at least figured a good starting point.
  • He started trying to set customer expectations before the call, he tried reaching out by email or over social channels to lay the groundwork for a conversation. Not everyone responded, but he noticed something. Often, when he called, people recalled the email. Even when they didn’t, writing the email helped him prep for what he intended to talk about. It helped him structure and plan the conversation.

It didn’t work 100 percent of the time. Customers were still wary of talking to a sales person. But, for the conversations he had, he found significantly greater interest on the part of the prospect in a follow up conversation.

It is tough to engage our customers in conversations. We have to do our homework and be prepared. For those customers willing to have a conversation, we have to make sure we talk about what the customer wants to talk about.