Every Time

In which we're encouraged to focus on customer interests, even if our companies are product focused. My daughter wants to redecorate her room. Eight years ago, when we moved into the house, my wife chose the paint and trimmings for the room. Now, my daughter wants a change - the paint, the furniture, and the floor plan. 

She has created designs, chosen colors, picked out furniture, created a floor plan, and estimated a budget for out of pocket costs to make the change.  She has been lobbying her mother for a couple of years to change the room around. With the arrival of a particular catalog earlier this week, she mounted another pitch.

Within the space of two hours this morning, I heard from…

My wife:  “Listen to her ideas and don’t commit to anything.  I don’t like the furniture she’s chosen, I don’t like the paint color, it’s going to look awful, and we’re not going to do it.”

My daughter: “Could you please lobby Mom to let me make the changes in my room?  She’s just being unreasonable. It’s MY room and I should be able to do what I want with it.

Standoff.

Seeking to avoid the middle position between them, I asked my daughter, “What does Mom say to you about the room?”  Her reply:  “She says, ‘No,’ or ‘I don’t want to talk about it now,’ or ‘let’s talk about it later,’ or ‘let’s talk about it tomorrow,’ or ‘let’s pick a time to talk about it,’ and she never talks about it.”

This was beginning to sound like a familiar problem

I offered: “I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I can see that she’s tired of your pitches about the room.  Any time the subject comes up or the bi-monthly XYZ catalog comes in, you pitch a new idea or a new plan. You’re pitching; she’s not buying.  She’s tired of the pitches and so she’s avoiding you.”

Kinda like our clients and prospects, yes?   The old avoidance trick?

I asked, “Have you asked Mom about her concerns regarding your designs?”    Answer: “No.”

“How about asking her what her concerns are and what her vision is for the room longer term. Don’t pitch any ideas. Just listen to what she says, think about it, and then let’s see whether there’s another approach that might work.  How does that sound?”

Brief affirmative head nod.

Particularly when we work for companies that are “product” focused , meaning management talks about customer relationships but what you see is a continuing stream of new product introductions, product promotions, and pricing specials designed to move product, we can wear our clients out with “hey, have you heard what’s new” or “we’re offering special pricing this month”  pitches. They get to “enough, already!” and stop listening.  Sounds like, “Every time that guy calls me, he’s trying to sell me something.”

So… even when our sales leaders and incentive programs focus on pitch-the-product, we sales people need to remember to approach with dialog and questions, even if it’s as simple as, “Mary, we’ve never talked about the way you do X. How are you handling that now?”  And then listening… and suggesting appropriate ideas.  Mary should never know we’re running a special or promoting a new product unless she has a need for which that product or special would be an appropriate response.

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