Are You Talking to Me? (Issue 415)

In which we're reminded to ask about our clients'  listening before we begin speaking. "Dad, why does an apple turn brown?"

One afternoon, early in my parenting life, I was at the wheel of the family mo-beel with my son (then five years old) in his car seat in the back and my wife riding shotgun. It was a warm spring afternoon. We’d given my son an apple to gnaw on. ‘Midst crunching and masticating, came the question: “Dad, why does an apple turn brown?”

So, I explained. When you bite into the apple, you break some of the apple cells, and there are chemicals inside apple cells that contain iron and that react with oxygen in the air, just like when the fence railing at the front steps rusts or when scabs on cuts turn brown, and that’s called oxidation.

There was silence for a while as he thought this over. He then asked, “Dad…. Were you talking to me?”
Thought I was!  Maybe what he was really asking was, “I don’t like brown apples, how do I make it stop turning brown?” Maybe I should have asked: “Why do you want to know?”

This very same scenario unfolds when we’re in sales calls.

For example: Let’s say we’re talking about hiring sales people. We introduce the idea of an assessment process. Our prospective client expresses interest and asks, “How does the assessment work?”

One way: Steak – the answer you’d give to someone who is concerned about technical issues and implementation:

“Well it’s a 288 item online questionnaire that sometimes is 324 items if it’s for sales managers. It takes about 60 minutes to complete. It’s set up so you can be interrupted and come back to it and you pick up where you left off but, once it’s submitted, a report is generated back to your assistant who we trained to run the HR Assistant tool that handles all the data. She can then send that report out to the hiring manager and they have it in time for their next interview. Usually within 24 hours”

Another way: Sizzle – the answer you’d give to someone who’s concerned about outcomes and results:

“Well it’s really about eliminating unforced errors in hiring. The research suggests that even the best sales managers in their career bat around 500 we think we can move that to 8 out of 10. That’s a significant increase in results but, more importantly, reduction of turnover. Moreover, you increase the quality of the hires you make because you know precisely the DNA of your top performers. So you upgrade the entire team’s overall performance.”

Slip them a quick assessment on the spot to understand their frame of reference. A good  assessment question to ask BEFORE answering might be: “What information would help you most?” or “What are you listening for?” The answer to that question will help us understand who we’re talking to and the levels and types of information they want so that they feel we ARE talking to them.
Thanks and tip of the hat to friend and reader John Hoskins who shared his experiences selling H.R. Chally’s assessment tools.

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