It’s Just a Phase You’re Going Through

In which we're encouraged to acknowledge our clients' stories so they're sure we've heard them. As last week came to Friday, many conversations ended with the suggestion, "Have a happy Easter." Several of us announced that we were headed to dinner tables set by our mothers or mothers in law. Celtic Grammas, it turns out, first or second-generation immigrants from Ireland or Scotland.

Now, while there are interesting differences between Celtic Grammas’ Easter celebrations (for example, at my mother in law’s house, the highlight of the celebration is the after dinner “push the small foil-wrapped chocolate Easter egg across the living room floor with your nose” race), there are some striking similarities, one of which is large quantities of vegetables cooked almost to mush. Ah, well, it’s not for crunchy carrots that we gather.

As an occasional student of Celtic Grammas, I’ve discovered other striking similarities. Like, for example, the phrase, “Ah, it’s just a phase you’re going through.” As one of my friends recalled, “As the fifth child, it didn’t matter what happened to me, my mother would say, ‘John, it’s just a phase you’re going through.’ Didn’t matter what my feelings were. It was just a phase.”

Why would she say those words? Well, after considering classic Celtic Grammas’ stoic denials of feelings, perhaps she wanted to reassure her son with her experienced motherly perspective that he would be OK, that he would grow through his challenges. Or, perhaps she was so busy with John and his four siblings that she used maternal shorthand: “I don’t have time to listen, you’ll be fine, it’s just a phase you’re going through.”

We sellers can fall into this same short hand trap, frequently with similar effects. “I’ve worked with so many companies,” confided one seller, “that I see the solution to a company’s problems very quickly. After that point, I don’t have to ask a lot of questions. I tell them their problems are typical of many companies I work with, I tell them what they need to do to fix them, and I try to conclude the conversation quickly so I don’t waste their time.”

Like the Celtic Grammas, this seller seeks to reassure his clients by telling them that their discomforts are just a phase they’re going through – “Many of my clients have faced just this challenge, ” that they’ll be OK, that they’ll grow out of it, and, if appropriate, that his products will help them. And would they please stop wasting his time.

Some clients might appreciate this [“Pat understood our problems quickly, recommended a solution, and got out of our hair fast.”] while others might not [“Pat asked five questions, then recommended a product. It might be the right product, I couldn’t tell you, but I’m not confident he really understands us very well or what we’re experiencing.]

Possible morals of this story: (1) For clients, offspring of Celtic mammas or grammas, we tell them, “Compose yourselves, stop whining, you’ll be fine, it’s just a phase you’re going through.” (2) For the rest of our clients, we be careful with that short hand. One of our jobs as sellers is to ENGAGE our clients so they feel that we have time for them, that we’ve listened, that we’ve heard, that we’ve fully understood, and that we care before we….. … tell them to stop whining, get over it, it’s just a phase. [Kidding, I’m just kidding.] ….before we summarize, confirm, and recommend an approach to help them.

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