Let me tell you a quick story of how I embarrassed myself with a potential large client and a senior director in the company where I worked.
I’m sitting in a very smart office with a potential large client, in an office block overlooking Sydney Harbour. The sun is shimmering on the water and the air conditioning is humming in the background.
Three years previously I was a dismal failure at selling, working in a remote branch of Pitney Bowes in Far North Queensland.
Now I think I’m a red-hot sales manager for one of the top divisions in the state.
My new found arrogance is beginning to blindside me in areas where I still need to develop my skills. Technically, I’ve developed what are commonly referred to as scotomas (blind spots).
One of these scotomas would become blatantly obvious during the course of this important meeting.
During the weeks preceding this particular meeting, I had uncovered a very large new business opportunity for the fax division I was running at the time.
This had the potential to be a large six or seven figure deal.
I was working in Brisbane and the client was headquartered in Sydney.
I asked the National divisional manager (one of my bosses), to accompany me on the customer visit.
Naturally, I have prepared well for this meeting and had a prepared list of questions to uncover the client’s underlying issues.
I knew the outcome I wanted for the meeting and listened carefully with my agenda in mind.
During the course of the conversation, the client asked me if we could also help with another product range. I answered that yes, we have another division which managed that product range, and then I artfully steered the conversation back to my agenda.
After we left the client office, my boss and I went to have a cup of coffee and to debrief about the call.
He asked me how I thought the meeting went. Being the modest person that I was at the time, I declared that I thought it went brilliantly.
He then brought my attention to the question the client asked about the product range which I was not responsible for.
- He enquired as to what notes I took regarding the potential client’s requirement in this area. My answer – none!
- He then asked if I had found out who the relevant client contact was for that other opportunity. My answer – no!
- Next he enquired as to how I was going to progress the opportunity to the benefit of the client and our other division, in which I had no financial interest. My answer – I had no plan.
He went on to give me some very powerful coaching on the art of listening.
He reinforced that I was doing a fantastic job listening with my agenda in mind. But he said, if I wanted to get really good at what I did, I also needed to listen with other people’s agenda in mind.
His coaching is now supported by a growing portfolio of new research studies.
In one such research study, 42% of those surveyed reported encountering potential providers (salespeople) who did not listen to them when the salesperson was doing selling activities.
It’s very easy to drop into ‘selling mode’ when you’re in front of a potential customer. But, you will learn far more about the customer situation when you’re in listening mode compared to when you’re in selling mode.
And remember to listen with the client’s agenda in mind.
After all, it’s very difficult to solve a client’s underlying issues if we don’t fully understand what those issues are.
As Dr Stephen Covey once said, listen first to understand… then, to be understood.
Think about this for a minute, one of our goals when visiting a potential client, is to get the next meeting scheduled in the diary. The client is only going to do that if they feel you have really understood their situation first.
So, if you want to get your outcome for the meeting, it is in your best interests to fully and deeply understand the client situation first. Which means listening more and selling less.
FREE Resource: I produced a special CONSULTATIVE SELLING CHEAT SHEET that I give my private clients to use. It includes the ‘5 Expansion Questions’ you must use in every prospect meeting that demonstrate you are listening deeply. You can download it for free using this link.