For some unknown reason, when inexperienced people start thinking about sales and marketing, they lapse into a weird kind of mental state. Instead of thinking about the activity as “the beginnings of a relationship”, they think of it as “my chance to tell this person about my product”.

One analogy I use often in discussions with clients is that of dating. Or, to be precise – THE PICK-UP.

Imagine a single guy, he’s at a bar and he sees a pretty girl sitting alone at the other end of the bar. Let’s imagine he walks up to her, introduces himself, and then launches into a monologue like this:

“Hey, I’m John Smith. I have a million dollar apartment on the water, I drive a 911, and I’ve got a huge stock portfolio. I can bench 120 kg and I have a pretty impressive six-pack. Would you like to sleep with me?”

Now – that approach might work some of the time. Maybe one in a hundred girls will go for it? Maybe one in a thousand? And maybe John’s happy with those odds. But my guess is that 99% of girls he tries that on will throw their drink in his face and quickly walk away. That’s not how you begin a relationship that’s based on genuine interest and connection. We all know that (hopefully). What should John have done differently? He could have started by trying to catch her eye from the other side of the bar and given her a smile. If she reciprocated, he could have walked up and asked if he could buy her a drink. If she said yes, he could have introduced him briefly and then asked her some questions about herself. You know how it goes. Or at least I hope you do.

So why do people think their first conversation with a prospective customer should be a long list of their product features? It’s a weird mindset we get into when we’re in “SALES MODE”. We think we have a very small window of opportunity and we need to use that to quickly blurt out everything we can before the person kicks us out of the door.

“I try to avoid talking about myself as much as possible…”

When I go to visit a new prospective client for the first time, I try to avoid talking about myself as much as possible. I think of the meeting as information gathering. I’m in the room to see if the client has a problem that I might be able to solve. If, after I’ve gathered all of the data I can, I think I can help them, I’ll let them know. And then, maybe after I’ve been there for 45 minutes, I might tell them a few things about myself, my experience, etc. But not before I’ve asked questions. GOOD questions. LOTS of questions. About THEM.

Another analogy is going into a doctor’s office. Imagine if you sat down and the doctor started going on about her education and experience for 30 minutes before even asking you what your symptoms are. That would be nearly as weird as the appointment I had with my four year old last week where the doctor was Googling his symptoms in front of me to try to diagnose what was wrong with him. Is that what you learn in medical school these days? How to use the Googles?

Anyway, I digress. My advice to clients is that when they first meet one of their customers, come prepared with a bunch of great, insightful questions to ask. You are there to solve a problem, so spend a good deal of time working out what the problem is before you start offering solutions.


Author: Cameron Reilly, Director, Motherlode, Principal Marketing Consultant Brisbane