Stop the Bleeding (Issue 510)

In which we are reminded to maintain a broad view and help our clients solve the problems that are immediate and urgent, whether or not we make a sale in that moment.

It was the usual (and very nice) sandwiches, salads, and pasta salad in a conference room working lunch. After an exhilarating two-hour romp through the sales force deployment and effectiveness issues of the day, we broke for lunch, munching and chatting about politics, professional sports, and children’s adventures.

As we were clearing our plates and plastic utensils from the conference room table, one of our client’s team members somehow cut his thumb. Apparently, he did not feel it when it happened. While it was not a life threatening cut, he noticed blood drops on the conference room table and begin waving his arm around looking for the source.

Spotting blood streaming down his thumb, his first thought was the paper napkins that had come with lunch. They were gone! We’d used them all!

As he paused, trying to figure out what to do next, I recalled a box of Kleenex I had seen in the next room. I quickly stepped around the corner, grabbed some Kleenex, and handed them to him so he could wrap his thumb. Mission accomplished, bleeding controlled, smiles all around.

Now, I could have said, “Bob, come over here. I have some sales consulting services or training that I could offer you.” Those are the services I offer; he had a need to change behavior, so why not?

Well… because they were not the right solution for the problem. In fact, our firm does not sell a solution for Bob’s bleeding (although we do carry Band-Aids and other light first aid gear in our briefcases, from time to time).  The right solution for the problem was manufactured and distributed by another firm and, through quick thinking and sharp recall, I was able to help him put that solution in place to solve his problem.

Yeah, yeah, it was a small problem and I’m making a small cut into a trauma. However, we frequently face this challenge and opportunity when we are selling to our clients. If we focus only on the needs that we and our products can address directly, we can miss opportunities to be helpful (and earn relationship points for) solving other important challenges that our clients face.

Can we make a living that way? Not likely. However, in the flow of developing and enriching the critical relationships that feed us, or in the process of opening new relationships with individuals or companies who don’t yet purchase services from us, helping them solve the immediate problem (whether they are bleeding literally or just figuratively) can bring great value.

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