Name That Tune

In which we are encouraged to savor our clients’ answers to each of our questions rather than rushing to judgment. Just before the turn of the year, I participated in a "music circle" - 15 guitar players and singers in a circle, amusing themselves on a cold evening by playing and singing songs ranging from blues to Broadway.

One professional, two “play out pretty regularlies,” and twelve competent, enthusiastic amateurs, all raring to go. We work from a wonderful book – Rise Up Singing – and whatever any of us can remember from gigs long ago.

There’s a peculiar thing that happens when we have all this energy, talent, and experience in the room. We’ll finish a song, there’ll be some low chatter, laughing about how the song sounded, sharing different ways to play it, and on and on, and then….. one of the guitar players will have an idea, hit a couple of chords…. and immediately…. five other players will jump in… :”Oh, yeah, that’s a great song!”…. and start picking away like a runaway train.

Sometimes we’re all thinking about the same song. Perfect. Many times, however, we’re not – we’re all at the same time playing three or four different songs that go with the chords we heard, producing auditory mush, after which we have to stop, regroup, pick ONE song, and go with that. A dynamic “Name That Tune” exercise. Hear a couple of notes, then say or play whatever song comes to mind.

“Name That Tune” is a fun game … except when played in sales calls. When played there, it sounds like, “Ask a few questions, hear a few facts and shout out ‘Here’s the problem and here’s what will fix it.'”

We play it like a game – first one to shout out the right answer wins. We’re thinking, “If I recognize the problem quickly and suggest an appropriate fix quickly, my client or prospect will think I’m smart, feel confident, appreciate that I’m using her time wisely, and see that I’m adding a lot of value.”

Except we aren’t… adding a lot of value when we play this way for anything other than simple problems.

“For every complex problem, there is solution that is simple, neat, and wrong,” wrote H. L. Mencken. If we’re playing “Name That Tune” in sales calls after hearing a few facts about complex issues, we’re likely to guess wrong many times, just as the music circle guitar players frequently guess wrong on songs after hearing a few chords.

Contrast this with…. Just after the first of the year, I went to dinner with friends. One of us is quite the wine expert and he brought four completely over-the-top wines for us to try. Parker ratings in the mid to high 90’s. With each wine, each of us poured an ounce or so into a glass, then sipped, and nursed, and swirled, and slowly savored every complex hint of fruit, caramel, cassis, and chocolate the wines had to offer. After each sip, we paused and discussed what we’d tasted before proceeding.

A much better model for sales conversations about complex issues. Each question we ask is a sip from the glass, drawing a small portion out for examination. Each fact, each element we draw out of our clients, is a flavor to be held on the tongue, savored and explored for its full meaning and possibility, paused over and discussed rather than sucked down and swallowed immediately as we reach for the next glass.

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