The Value We Bring to the Table (Issue 590)

In which we are reminded not to fall for the bait of taking an order just because the customer asked for it.

As we relaxed after lunch, a friend shared a story about his initial visit and physical with his new physician.

“I was very frustrated,” said my friend. “I sat there on the exam table while he asked me seventy five questions.”

Hearing the frustration in his voice and imagining him sitting there in his johnny, we all laughed.

“I said to the doctor, ‘Aren’t you going to POKE me?’”

“The doctor gave me a long look and said, ‘Most of what will happen to you is based on genetics – your grandparents, your parents, and your habits.’”

Looking around the room, my friend said, “He was asking questions; I went right to ‘poke me.’”

Just as most of us would….or do. Because we all know the deal when we go for a physical, right? “Clench your fist…Breathe deep… stick out your tongue….” Thump thump here. Thump thump there. Blow into this…. That’s a physical exam. The questions about grandparents and parents are a nuisance, they’re invasive – who knows whether my grandmother had high blood pressure?

Very typical. Our clients, like the doctor’s patient, frequently show up SURE of what they need and what they expect based on their past experience or their web research and they don’t want to answer a bunch of questions. They just want us to do what they’ve asked, get it done fast, and do it cheap. Minimum questions.

Case in point. I got a call this week: “Do you know anyone who speaks about time management?”

I thought about that for a bit, then wrote back: “Who wants to hear about time management?” Answer: “Our Regional Managers.” Hmmm. Interesting. I replied, “Why do they think they need a time management speaker?” Answer: “I guess they have a lot of problems ‘managing their day’ and they thought it might help to have a good speaker on the subject.”

So, no knock on the guy who called. He was trying to help somebody twice removed who’d been asked to find a speaker.

But the whole idea was: Got time management challenges? Find a speaker. That’s like “poke me.” Let’s not get into those annoying questions about systems, organizational priorities, job designs, email conventions, and staffing models that force most of what happens to their time. Heck no, just hire a speaker. Go right to action. Poke me.

So, I could have answered, “yes,” I know a speaker, but asking the questions is our job in sales. That’s one of the reasons we’re paid the big bucks: To gain the confidence or cooperation of people who are over-informed and under-experienced, to be curious, to ask the seventy five questions, and help them make better decisions because we’ve spent 3 years or 5 years or 10 years or 40 years sitting in front of other people sorting out these issues and helping them solve their problems. That’s the value we bring to the table, starting with the questions.

One of my favorite “urban legend” stories: A machine in a factory has malfunctioned, and the engineers on site can’t find the source of the problem. So they call on a retired worker who had spent a long time working with the machine. He comes in, walks up to the machine, looks at it for a minute, pulls out a piece of chalk and draws a circle around the screw that needs to be tightened. He then writes them a bill for $5,000.

“$5,000, that’s ridiculous, all you did was draw a circle around a screw!”

So he wrote them a new bill:
Drawing circle around screw: $1.
Knowing where to draw circle: $4999.

Same as it is for us. Selling someone a product: $1.  Knowing what products to sell (because we asked questions to solve the problem rather than taking the order): $4,999.

 

 

 

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