Okay… you’re on a busy highway. Multiple lanes. Middle of rush hour. You’re currently in the fast lane. You get a call. You recognize the number as being that of the world’s most connected headhunter. You hit the “answer” button (just because you’re a law-abiding citizen who happens to have Bluetooth – and you hate your job). Well happy day! This phenom has arranged for you to do a phone interview with a prospective employer. It’s your dream job. Huzzah!
Oh… one catch. Your new potential employer is calling your cellphone in three minutes.
Panic. No… don’t panic. You can do this. There’s an exit just ahead, and a gas station at the first set of lights. You can make it there and still have 20 seconds to spare. Or… you can reschedule (are you an idiot? This is your dream job!). And there’s your answer. You’ll pull into the gas station so you can concentrate on the call. This is important. You obviously don’t want your mind on something else while this critical conversation takes place.
And therein lies your admission. And mine. It’s about the level of concentration required to have a coherent conversation. By definition – if you admitted that you would pull over (and you did), you have also admitted that you’re able to concentrate only on one thing. It’s either driving, or having an intelligent conversation.
Are we to assume that despite the fact that while weaving in and out of traffic while trying to follow the flow in all six lanes, the deep conversation – about your youngest child being in detention because of an incident involving a fire alarm, a slinky and a Shetland pony – is perfectly safe because your hands are at 10 and 2?
Mobile phones have forever changed our habits and our ability to multi-task. They’ve proven to be invaluable, and perfect for conversations akin to “Yes, Dear, I’ll get the milk”. “Hi Bob, I’m running late”. Or ”Yes I got your message. You’re sure you destroyed every photo?”. Our phones were not, I don’t believe, intended for deep conversations while driving.
Hands-free or not.
In the vast majority of locales, there are no laws that bar you from calling into a radio station, winning tickets for the Tiffany Comeback tour (thinking that your kid will totally adore her and maybe you’ll bond over this and they’ll be every bit as excited as you are right now)… listening to yourself on air … while you shift, peck at a half-rack of ribs, and wash it down with a skinny double mocha frappacappa smoothie… while you’re piloting 4000 pounds of steel through similar obstacles at 110 kilometres per hour. In the fog. But it’s okay. You’re on a hands-free.
As the driver directly in front of you, I don’t care what you’re eating. I don’t care what you’re drinking. And I don’t particularly care where your hands are.
I want to know where your head is.
Where do you draw the line when taking calls in the car?
I have been in sales and marketing for about 20 years. I have worked for several telecommunications companies, both large and small. My background and experience has given me the good fortune to work with many companies similar to yours. The product I sell has many great features that I’m sure will help you and your company.
So, quick question; at what point did you stop caring about what I was saying? My guess is right away. Heck, even I was bored pretty much immediately.
In sales, as soon as you start talking about yourself and what you think is important, people stop listening. It’s not about you. Prospective customers don’t care about you. Now, don’t misunderstand; they may like you as a person. I’m sure you are quite likeable. But, when selling to retail or business customers, the only thing they are concerned with is solving their problems or achieving some objective. This problem or objective can be a business problem or it can be a personal situation, but the selling interaction needs to revolve around them. The problem might be a complicated business data requirement or it could be that their cousin Jim has a newer, faster smartphone and Jim keeps teasing him. It depends on the situation. Everybody that is buying something is either resolving a pain or trying to bring some pleasure into their lives.
One other thing that prospects don’t care about is the features of whatever it is you are selling. Obviously, the features are important but only as they are able to make their problem go away. They don’t buy the features, they buy the end result. Using the approach of, “This device is packed with features. Let me show you what X manufacturer has come out with in this model.” can be a deal breaker. It’s not about what the salesperson wants to say (despite the awesome product training they just had), it’s about what the potential customer needs. What they don’t need is to waste time or get confused listening to a sales pitch on features. For many, the features all sound about the same anyway so how does this help them make a decision? What prospects do need is to have a solution to their problem and a well-informed salesperson is in a great position to provide this solution.
So, what is this super secret that keeps the conversation about the prospect, that makes sure you are providing the solution that responds to the needs of the potential customer, and that guarantees you are not wasting their time or yours?
Questions. Learn to ask the right questions. Wow…I bet that is a shocker.
As simple as it seems, the right questions are the only way to know the truth and it is an area where so many salespeople struggle. They have so much information stored in their heads they feel that it just has to come out. Maybe they should ask some questions first? And not just superficial questions where you are not really paying attention (Questions asked…check!) and are just waiting for an opportunity to “sell”.
Asking the right questions will establish if the potential customer has a problem you can fix, how that problem is affecting their business or them personally, has the means (i.e. money) to invest in something that will resolve the problem and is looking to do it in a reasonable timeframe. Once you know this information, then you can use your knowledge of the industry, features, competitors, prices and so on to give them a professional response; a solution. Or, if they can’t afford your product or are not able to make the decision any time soon, then you can decide if you should spend your time with them or gracefully move on.