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Clue: 2 Ears, 1 Mouth...Hmmm
Hearing and Listening are Two Different Things
I am as guilty as any eager salesman of wanting to tell the story I know that you don't and you need to hear, even if the story has absolutely nothing to do with what you do or have dominion over purchasing!
Being excited about what one has to sell is a great asset. Enthusiasm is contagious and and infecting. In painting the picture, the marketer or salesman needs to consider who is the audience - and then actively ask the questions that confirm, specify and identify the real needs and authority of the prospect. Asking the questions first sometimes is lost in the excitement.
I once sold hog feed. I called on this prominent hog farmer who was always interested in improving his herd, improving their processes and production and lowering their costs. He was a key prospect and leader in the industry. If I could sell him, others would recognize he was using my products and would want to use my products.
I called on the gentleman for a couple of years very early in my sales career. He would always accept my invitation for a meeting scheduling as much as an hour for my new presentation. After about four presentations, which I thought were flawless, I attended my company's next level of sales training. Maybe I just didn't hear it in the first level sales training course - but there was this line about asking questions - even asking for the order - that I hadn't heard on the first go round.
I called Mr. Haley again and asked for a meeting. He, again, obliged. When I got to his office, I walked in, set my information on his desk and sat down. I said, Mr. Haley, I've been calling on you for several months. I've shown you several products that I have to sell you and you have very patiently allowed me to present these products to you. What I have failed to do is ask how any of these products could possibly fit into your operations. Can we talk about that today?
He was a big man, had a grand way of speaking when he spoke and chose his words carefully. He leaned back in his big black chair and smiled. Then he leaned forward and said he had been a Purina salesman 20 years earlier. He knew much of what I was offering, although his interest was in listening to see if there was anything new that he could bring to use on his farm. He had used all the information and training he had received while working for the company I now represented to build and grow his operations - often on the cutting edge.
I was kind of dumbfounded. I had no idea he had any idea what I was trying to sell. He had been listening - and only very rarely speaking. This was my epiphany as a salesman and I stood and shook his hand and thanked him for this. Now he was taken aback a little. Then I said, "so you are doing pretty much everything you can do on the nutrition end of your operation, is there anywhere in the facility that you feel may have room for improvement?" He smiled broadly and said, "Pests, pests are our biggest problem. Rats, mice, flies, are all issues we are dealing with unsuccessfully every day."
Now it was my turn. I handed him one of the brochures I had set on his desk earlier. Mr. Haley, we have a new rat bait I believe could make a huge difference for your operations from our Health Products department. It is unlike anything else on the market so your rats will not have seen it and cannot have any immunity to it. In addition, I'd like to offer a trial of our new fly treatments. When can I bring in the first order?"
He stood, shook my hand and said, "Well done!" Then he said "I'll need 10 of the 50 pound drums of rat bait. We'll give the fly treatments a try on farm #3 and I'll let you know if we need to go further there. Tuesday of next week would be a great first delivery date and you can train our farm hand on how best to place it and where."
I left that farm a changed man - a salesman. By the way, he ended up using literally tons of rat bait over the years. He also used a good bit of fly treatments until the next better product came along. We remained friends with his son Frank becoming my contact. Frank was a duplicate of his father in so many ways - primarily as a true gentleman farmer.
In all of my years of selling since, it has come back to me over and over again. I call on physicians or hospitals or industrial accounts or even law offices and there are young sales people there making their pitch. Often, I can almost hear their sales instructor saying something about an elevator pitch - and getting the right tone on the call going within the first 3 minutes. When the salesperson is truly interested in learning, even competitors, I'll offer them a cup of coffee or lunch.
I usually meet them and ask the question, what do you sell? They look at me astonished. I just heard their pitch and should know that they work for XYZ therapeutics or something. I ask them where they live and if they are married, how many kids they have. I ask about if they have a company car or if they have to travel a large territory, all in conversation of course. As we talk I build in several qualifiers.
Then I start asking about their products. If their eyes light up and they start going on about it, I know something about them already. If they go limp, show signs of pain- really, I also learn something. Either way, it leads me to know how much they believe in their products. Don't ever believe a prospective new customer can't see the same things.
Finally I go back over all I have learned and ask them a question about myself. Do you know I am married? Have children? Travel a large territory? Have worked in multiple industries? Of course they have no clue - but when I tell them about themselves, they can't believe I already know them so well. I hope through this quick training technique I help them with their sales career going forward. I hope I make a friend. And I hope they learn the difference between listening and hearing. Good luck to all of you!