Nothin’ But Trouble (Issue 488)

In which we are reminded to be careful about "sharing our experience" when asked until we understand the details, no matter how tempting.

“Yeah, we’re already doing that…”

I spoke at a banking industry conference last week. During one of the breaks, I chatted with a conference participant; after a bit, he described a cross-selling sales challenge with his sales team. Interested, I said, “Interesting… tell me more about that.”

He went on for a bit, then asked, “What strategies have you seen other banks use to increase their cross sells?”

Without much hesitation, the “Oh, gosh, I’d love to be helpful” voice came out of my mouth. “Well,” I said, “two strategies we’ve seen work well in settings like yours are (strategy A) and (strategy B).”

I received the summary dismissal I deserved for my careless response: “Yeah, we’re already doing that.”

(In other words: “You haven’t told me anything I don’t already know” and “Unless you have something better than that, pal, I’m moving on.”)

One is tempted, at such moments, to recover by offering even more ideas, BIGGER ideas, BIGGER situations , saying something like, “Well, in another situation, I’ve seen… And in another situation….”

The trouble with this is: Our odds of pinging the Thrill-o-Meter are low because we don’t know enough about the speaker’s situation; the odds of a more permanent brush off are high. (Dropping like stone continues.)

A more engaging answer to his question, “What strategies have you seen…?” might have focused on results and suggested a deeper conversation:

“In similar situations, we’ve seen banks increase their cross sells from 2.8 to well over 4 within a few weeks. Give me your card. I’d love to hear more and share our experience. What day next week would be good for a deeper conversation?”

Huge difference in approach. By speaking about results, we’ve whetted his appetite for more. There’s nothing to object to. No “yeah, we’ve done that.”  Further conversation seems highly attractive.

Once engaged in further conversation, one can dig into the speaker’s details: “You mentioned when we spoke last that you had tried A and B, both good options, and that you didn’t see the lift you were expecting. Tell me: What exactly did you do?”

Once we have the additional details, we may be able to share some relevant experience or suggest other questions to ask. Until we get into the details, deep and specific, we can’t really tell what was done and why it might or might not have worked. Until that point, fast free advice ain’t nothin’ but trouble.

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