Captivating Rhythm (Issue 591)

In which we are reminded to engage our clients in a flow of conversation rather than stopping every two minutes to demonstrate how much we know.

When Clarity was looking for a new bank, one of our meetings took place in a bank branch, a small business banker’s office. The conversation began easily enough. A topic familiar to both of us. The weather. It was late fall; the air was chilly, and we both commented that we would be thinking these temperatures were warm within a few months, in the middle of the winter.

When the Small Business Banker transitioned the conversation from the weather to business, she asked three solid beginning questions: “How did you start your business? Who are your most important customers? How has the business developed to this point?”

Something in my answers caught her attention. She said, “Oh, that is so wonderful that your business is more than 20 years old. You know, a significant number of businesses fail within their first three years because their owners don’t have enough capital and blah blah blah” for about two minutes. I nodded and listened.

And then she asked me a few more questions: “How many people work in the company? Where are your offices? How close are they to your clients?” I responded.

“Oh,” she said, picking up on one of my answers. “I had a guy in here last week who has a similar setup. He has employees all over the US and some in Europe, blah blah blah” for about another two minutes. I nodded and listened.

And then she asked me a few more questions. “How do you invoice your clients? How do they pay you? What sorts of challenges are you experiencing with depositing quickly? How much time do you or one of your team members spend doing this?” I responded.

“Ah,” she said, reflecting on my response. “That’s one of the most important success factors we see in our clients. The ones who let the incoming checks blah, blah, blah.” A solid minute.  I nodded and listened.

She then asked me a few more questions. And repeated the pattern. Two or three questions, Nick answers,  short speech. Two or three questions, Nick answers, short speech. Two or three questions, Nick answers, short speech.

Looking back, she asked well-chosen questions. She provided perspective. Business owners appreciate perspective. Some of us don’t get out much and we want to know, “What’s going on out there, what are you seeing?”

What I found irritating was the start/stop. I just wanted her to settle into a nice even flow of conversation with me. Instead: short speeches after every 2 to 3 questions, drawing my attention to her.  It was too much. “Please…. keep going,” I kept thinking. Incredibly frustrating.

The trick is, get into a captivating rhythm – six questions, seven questions, maybe ten questions, THEN summarize, THEN offer a little perspective or experience — briefly!  No more than one or two sentences. And then move on. Engage and sustain the client in the rhythm rather than trying(frequently) to sound so smart.

If clients are interested, they can always ask: “Could you go back to that point? I’d like to hear more.”

Weekly Sales Thought

October 15, 2012

Captivating Rhythm

In which we are reminded to keep our focus on the customer no matter how much great stuff we have to share.

When Clarity was looking for a new bank, one of our meetings took place in a bank branch, a small business banker’s office. The conversation began easily enough. A topic familiar to both of us. The weather. It was late fall; the air was chilly, and we both commented that we would be thinking these temperatures were warm within a few months, in the middle of the winter.

When the Small Business Banker transitioned the conversation from the weather to business, she asked three solid beginning questions: “How did you start your business? Who are your most important customers? How has the business developed to this point?”

Something in my answers caught her attention. She said, “Oh, that is so wonderful that your business is more than 20 years old. You know, a significant number of businesses fail within their first three years because their owners don’t have enough capital and blah blah blah” for about two minutes. I nodded and listened.

And then she asked me a few more questions: “How many people work in the company? Where are your offices? How close are they to your clients?” I responded.  

“Oh,” she said, picking up on one of my answers. “I had a guy in here last week who has a similar setup. He has employees all over the US and some in Europe, blah blah blah” for about another two minutes. I nodded and listened.

And then she asked me a few more questions. “How do you invoice your clients? How do they pay you? What sorts of challenges are you experiencing with depositing quickly? How much time do you or one of your team members spend doing this?” I responded.

“Ah,” she said, reflecting on my response. “That’s one of the most important success factors we see in our clients. The ones who let the incoming checks blah, blah, blah.” A solid minute.  I nodded and listened.

She then asked me a few more questions. And repeated the pattern. Two or three questions, Nick answers,  short speech. Two or three questions, Nick answers, short speech. Two or three questions, Nick answers, short speech.

Looking back, she asked well-chosen questions. She provided perspective. Business owners appreciate perspective. Some of us don’t get out much and we want to know, “What’s going on out there, what are you seeing?”

What I found irritating was the start/stop. I just wanted her to settle into a nice even flow of conversation. Instead: short speeches after every 2 to 3 questions. “Please…. keep going,” I kept thinking. Incredibly frustrating.

The trick is, get into rhythm – six questions, seven questions, maybe ten questions, THEN summarize, THEN offer a little perspective or experience — briefly!  No more than one or two sentences. “Quick attention to incoming checks is critical for growing businesses.” And then move on. Draw out the client rather than trying to sound smart.

If clients are interested, they can always ask: “Could you go back to that point? I’d like to hear more.”

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