Remember Pink Floyd’s song “Comfortably Numb?”
There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying.
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.
Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Songwriters: Waters, Rogers/Gilmour, David Jon
A lot of employees, particularly those who have been around a long time, are a bit cynical and burned out.
Indeed Gallup found in the State of the American Workplace, that 7 in 10 American workers are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged”, are “emotionally disconnected” from their workplaces, and are “less likely to be productive.”
The cost? $3500 per $10,000 of an disengaged employee’s salary is down the toilet.
To be successful in sales, it’s vital that you are able and willing to engage and respond quickly and thoroughly to the needs, and often the objections, of your customers. Being comfortably numb won’t cut it.
For some people it can be tempting to approach that task by working from a gut feeling, and to try and formulate conversation or even responses based on assumptions. In other words, working from what you feel to be true, as opposed to what you know to be true.
It’s one of the most common mistakes that a sales person can make. Decisions you make in sales based on assumptions are unwise because they’re based on incomplete (and likely inaccurate) information – the prospective client will disengage from you.
Instead, ask questions to direct the engagement. Not just any question that pops into your head, either. To be effective, you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions in the right manner. Be sharp, crisp, engaged and responsive.
So what does that mean?
For starters, you need to remember that a sales person who seeks out a customer to ask probing questions is doing far more than making good conversation. There’s a different objective at stake. What they’re really doing is engaging in an interview (although when carried out properly, the customer should not see it this way).
As a prize-winning investigative reporter once remarked: “The goal of a conversation is to exchange information; the goal of an interview is to receive information.” The more often you engage the latter approach, the more skilled you’ll become in getting the facts and information you need so that you can hit those sales targets quarter after quarter.
To illustrate, let’s look at a case study and then explore how an accomplished sales professional could start digging for important additional information about a customer’s interests, simply by adopting an investigative reporter’s fact-finding approach.
You’re at a networking event. You find yourself with an opportunity to speak one-on-one with Emily, the COO of WHO. She has been with the company for six months. You have heard from a reliable third party that she’s eager to make changes to improve sales. This is of great interest to you because your company has a service that would be an ideal solution for Emily’s firm.
With these facts in hand, let’s explore the range of possible questions you could choose from that would help you better understand the needs of WHO so you can generate new sales.
Emily says: “I am the new COO of WHO…”
You might ask questions such as:
- That sounds exciting, tell me about your new role.
- What interested you about WHO?
- What are some of your priorities in this new position?
- What were you doing prior to working here?
Remember, your job is to listen, more than talk.
Emily responds, “I have been here for about six months…”
Some things to ask:
- What’s your biggest surprise so far?
- On first blush, what would you like to see changed or improved from what you’ve seen so far?
Listen. Stay engaged.
Emily mentions her interest in exploring new ways to improve her company’s way of doing business.
Some questions you might ask:
- Would you be willing to share one or two improvements you’re thinking about?
- Would you be willing to have a conversation to explore how we could help you attain those goals?
I don’t know about you but after those kinds of engaged, directed conversations I’m usually quite tired as I realize I was on an “adrenal high.”
I take time to relax and unwind so I can engage with me.
Dr. Jim Sellner, PhD., DipC.
Author: Leadership for Einsteins: How Smart Leaders Bring Out the Genius in People
Account-Ability: The Science of Human Performance — The Skill &Will of Getting Things Done
“Research-based and practical, Leadership for Einsteins shows you exactly what you can change at work and what you can’t.”
~Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times and global bestseller, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and dozens of other books. Also a Thinkers 50 Top Ten Global Business Thinker and top-ranked executive coach.