When Aretha Franklin sang about “Respect,” she, undoubtedly, was thinking about the importance of harmony between sales professional and client.
For those sales pros who have come up empty after a sales pitch, there are a variety of reasons that things may go awry – the offering may not align, or budgets may not be in sync. But if trust, empathy, and, yes, Aretha – respect – are not present, you might end up singing for your supper.
At The Brooks Group, we invest a lot of resources in understanding sales psychology – especially in a sales universe roiled by the scourge of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, the most basic of sales principles – that customer connection – requires our absolute focus:
Understanding who they are, what they need to achieve, and how your offering fills that need, is a good start.
But to really HEAR your customer requires the kind of “open-ended” dialogue that creates a bond of trust. Though training, musical talent, and magic are all ways to build better sales skills, we’ve also found that it takes the utterance of just two words to open the door to this connective tissue:
Starting your conversation with these two words sends a strong signal to your customer that this is not going to be an interrogation, but a dialogue – one in which you display genuine interest in your customer’s well-being, and a real commitment to problem-solving. To wit:
“Tell me what it is you need to achieve today.”
“Tell me what your perspective is.”
“Tell me what your goals are.”
“Tell me about your current state, and what your ideal future state looks like.”
So why does something so simple, seem to be so difficult to execute?
It truly takes a mindset change for sales pros – a sense that a sales discussion is not just an information-gathering exercise, but a truly beneficial conversation for both parties. Often, sales professionals become so focused on the end result – making the sale, earning the commission, hitting the numbers – that the basics of rapport and trust-building can, for better or worse, take a back seat.
In fact, some would argue that customers aren’t necessarily hell bent on getting the lowest price, but they do want to know they were treated fairly.
“Tell me” is the quickest path to this goal. It signals to your buyer that you’re not here to focus on what YOU want to accomplish, you’re here to understand what THEY need from YOU.
Some other benefits of the “tell me” approach:
- Better negotiations: When your goal is to reach the proverbial “win-win” agreement, asking good, insightful questions which uncover what the customer is truly looking to achieve can be critical. This will elevate the negotiation from a rote, back-and-forth process to one that is truly creative, and works to each side’s mutual benefit.
- The heart of the matter: Beyond improving negotiation outcomes, the “tell me” approach can uncover much larger objectives that your customer has in mind. By moving the conversation from a haggle over today’s pricing and terms to a focused dialogue over the buyer’s long-term objectives, you may be able to expand the scope of the deal beyond what was originally conceived.
- Collaboration versus adversarial approach: Inherently, salespeople love to negotiate – they live for it, yet our buyers tend to dread it – so much so, that it stands as a cliché of the seller-buyer paradigm. By approaching the conversation collaboratively, rather than from an adversarial standpoint, you will offer something of value that transcends the deal – a feeling that both parties got what they wanted, without anyone feeling beat up or bruised on the journey.
- Get out of your head: “Tell me” may be the best way to leave your cares at the door. Whether you are on the last day of your sales cycle, or you had a disagreement at home, or your car broke down – “tell me” helps reset your id, and facilitates a more fluid transition to a client-focused conversation.
So, the next time you are seeking to motivate your sales team, you can share with them this simple technique. Whether you’re a virtuoso or simply a shower-singer, “tell me” may be the best way to go from one-hit wonder to legendary status on the sales charts.