Today’s post is by J. Steven Osborne, CEO, Top Gun Sales Performance. Hear him speak live at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on May 2nd, where he will present "The Lies We Tell Ourselves about Sales Performance -- and Why We Believe Us!"
As a sales professional, I meet with clients and prospects every week. However, as a CEO of a company, I occasionally get to be the client or prospect. It’s amazing how changing your seat at the boardroom table can change your perspective.
The other day I agreed to hear a presentation from two selling professionals. They represent a bank we’ve done business with for years (we work with four banks so, no, it’s not the one you’re thinking about); we’ll call them the Acme Bank of St. Louis.
The account executive asked if he and an associate could come out and tell me why I should consider moving my 401(k) investments from their current location with a competitive bank to them. I like these guys, and they do a great job for us in the other areas of our business relationship. So, of course I agreed.
The meeting begins. They present their investment funds, their employee-accessible website, graphs with growth and progress, and statistical tables that are almost impossible to read. Within the first 15 minutes, I have lost interest. Within the first 25 minutes, I have clearly mentally checked out of the meeting. The meeting lasts an hour and fifteen minutes. By the end, I’m annoyed.
However, I really like this bank and our relationship is important to me. What I did next may sound unkind, but I did it because I care very much about this bank.
I began with, “Gentlemen, how do you feel your presentation went?”
“Pretty good,” said the senior rep, “How did we do?”
“Well, gentlemen, you are not going to get my business today. How we continue from here is up to you. You can leave, regroup, and try again a few months from now or you can stay and I will take you through my thoughts of your presentation. But I have to warn you, it will not be pleasant.” I said this because I was going to take them step by step through assumptions and mistakes they had made – not to scold them, but, hopefully, to make them better. They looked at each other and decided to stay no matter their fate.
“What do you know about my company?” I asked.
“We saw the awards on your wall, so you must be doing well.”
I raised an eyebrow. “And what do you know about my people to date?”
Their faces assumed somewhat blank and apologetic expressions. Finally, they surrendered. “Not much.”
“What is important to me in our 401(k) offering?” I asked. They responded with items about financial security, employee retention, and the like.
“No, that’s not what is important to me. That is what your marketing department thinks should interest me. Are any of the items you just presented in the last hour of importance to me?”
“We thought they would be. How would we know?”
Aha! There is the real question, isn’t it? How could they possibly know what was important to me? Here was the lesson I wanted them to learn: “This appointment was booked over 10 days ago. At any time, did either of you attempt to contact me to ask me about my areas of interest or what needed to happen in order for this hour to be valuable for me?”
They responded with two silent, slight turns of their heads.
Now I drove home my point. “You see, the most important thing to me is not your website; it’s not the investment funds, as I can get them from your competitor. It’s the person who manages my investments. You see, the person who manages our 401(k) will also manage my personal assets. They come as a package deal. Faith and confidence in that person are paramount to me – and a 10-minute phone call last week would have revealed that to you. Instead, you just wasted an hour of my time.”
Bottom line: The ultimate decision maker has specific needs and drivers. They are busy people and – more times than not – will tell you what to focus on if you ask. But do so in advance – NOT at the beginning of the meeting, but days prior. It makes a huge difference. Sounds simple, right? But do you do it consistently?