“Let me tell you about our awesome widget…”
“This feature is a perfect for you……”
“Your competitor is using this so you should be too”
The customer doesn’t care. They don’t want to know about the latest feature you have or why you think your product couldn’t possibly be causing them an issue, they want just to be heard and to learn. They want you to listen to their problems, understand the pain they are feeling, show some genuine empathy. Only then do they want to be challenged, learn about you, the market and how you, and your product or service, can make their life easier, cheaper and more profitable.
It is one of the most common mistakes you hear in sales and service conversations and it has many monikers – show up & throw up, trolley dollying, etc. It is the sales or service rep overwhelming the customer with talking, telling the customers how good their product is or how smart they. Why wouldn’t you? You are a specialist, you live and breathe the market on a daily basis it is only natural that you want to tell the world why you, your solution or service is the best thing since sliced bread. The only problem is that it doesn’t help the customer, you don’t even know what will help the customer because you haven’t been curious with your questioning, listened attentively to their response and used empathy to understand and feel their situation.
“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to use it in a fruit salad” Brian O’Driscoll
You need to use your knowledge about the market and your product and service selectively. Ask broad questions about the customers’ environment and objectives, target your questions to the customers’ unique situation, use your active listening skills to reframe and understand their response and use your empathy to feel their situation. It is amazing how much trust this process can build! If done correctly it lowers the customers’ scepticism and gives you the permission to ask more pointed questions and reframe the customers’ unique problem so that your product and service are the perfect panacea to cure their ills and help them exceed their goals.
This is something that you rarely see in your average performers but regularly come across in people that are new the sales/service game or the most experienced A performers. This is a great phenomenon described so well by David Sandler called the Dummy Curve Theory.
The three areas on the dummy curve are;
- When you start in a new role you don’t know enough to talk about your product or service so you have to rely on your questioning and listening skills. Your genuine curiosity leads to a strong bond of trust with your customer. This leads to a scenario seen in many sales organisation where new reps post great sales figures, often beating people who have been in the role for 6-12 months
- This is where you know enough to be truly dangerous…….to yourself and your quota. You have just learned a lot about your product and the market and are not afraid to tell your prospects ALL about it and don’t spend enough time listening to your customer. Unsurprisingly these reps have the worst sales results
- Seasoned professional
- As you mature on your journey within the company you are experienced enough to know that you need to listen and empathise with your customers problems. You have mastered the product and have enough knowledge about the competition to reframe the customers problem with targeted questioning that has the customer positioning your offering and the next initiative to help them succeed
The common thread with the Dummy and Seasoned Pro is that they don’t try and prove how smart you are by burying the customer under a deluge of product and market information, they rely on the number 1 sales and service skill – listening. What sets the Seasoned Pro apart from the Dummy is their ability to use their listening skills with their mastery of their product and deep market knowledge to reframe the customers’ problem. Knowledge v Wisdom.
Here are a few tips to help you accelerate your journey along the Dummy Curve to become a Seasoned Pro
- Ask broader questions to understand the customers’ business and problem
- “What are your strategic objectives for the year?”
- “How are you planning on accomplishing that?”
- “What have you tried to do in the past?”
- Be persistent – customers they are rarely going to be forthcoming with their real objectives and challenges with their first response.
- Seek clarification from the customers to ensure you know the problem
- “Can you tell me more about that?”
- “Could you be more specific?”
- “Really? Tell me more”
- “What is the cost of doing nothing?”
- Know your product or service and how it stacks up versus the competition, enabling you to reframe the problem to your advantage
- Don’t make assumptions. Going into every conversation with an open mind which allows you to be a creative problem solver