Selling vs Helping vs Fixing

Another story from a real coaching call...

Yesterday, one of my clients came to our call with this agenda.

"I can get caught in a loop when asking questions to a client. I find it hard sometimes to maintain a hold on where the conversation is going while asking my question. I think part of it is trying to match them to assumptions I probably shouldn't have. Another part of it is being uncomfortable when I start getting out of my depth. Is it a good idea to have a script of sorts before the call starts? Even something like a sticky notes with these are the things I want to talk about with this person so that I always have a point to reset the conversation to? 

I am wondering what is the best way to make sure that I am getting to the questions and topics that will be the most helpful."

So, I asked him if he had read Stop doing your prospects' job!

What do I mean by "your prospect's job"?

First, let's discuss the title. There are a lot of 'sales gurus' proclaiming that helping is the new selling. I'm good with that, but that does not mean that 'helping' should equate to 'fixing'. Read this article and the original Hubspot article about 'fixing'. Typically, there are two 'bad' things that can happen if you fix your prospect. First, and this is what most salespeople want to avoid, you tell them what you're gonna do, they do it and you don't make a sales, get a customer or make any money. However, the real problem is that they could try to do it themselves and it doesn't work. Not only don't you get anything positive, but they may also tell the entire world that they tried your solution and it did not work. They don't tell people that they screwed it up. You get the blame. Totally.

So, to me, selling is helping your prospect to understand exactly what their issue is, why it's happening, what the consequences are and how to figure out what the best solution might be. This means that you have to ask a boat load of questions, from a lot of different perspectives. What do their customers think? Have any of them left? What do their partners, co-workers, and bosses think? What's the downside of doing nothing? What's the upside of eliminating the problem? How long has it been going on? What have they tried? Would it help if....?

Now if you're asking questions like this, you've got a conversation going on, but sometimes it's hard to get it going and keep it productive. So, I typically come to a conversation with 3-4 'silo' questions. These are high level questions that will help me determine whether this person has a problem that I can solve.

For example, I might ask...

  • Can I assume that on January first you had a sales goal for the year? If they say yes, I ask if they're ahead or behind where they should be and continue to drill down for causes and something that needs fixing.
  • If they say no, I might say, "Interesting. No growth plan?"
  • If they tell me that they're ahead of goal, I might say, "Sounds like business is as good as it can be and we can shake hands, end the conversation and stay friends?" If they say yes, I'm done, but it's more likely that they'll say something like, "It can always be better." To which I'll reply, "Huh. How so?" and we continue.

So, I'll ask my 3-4 silo questions sales growth, scaling, recruiting better candidates, board or owner interest in the day to day and if nothing develops, I'll probably say something like, "I feel like I should apologize. I've asked a bunch of questions trying to figure out if there's any reason for us to speak about growing sales, but quite candidly, I'm thinking that your life is perfect and there's nothing to talk about."

They'll likely say, "It's far from perfect." To which I'll say, "Oh. Sorry. My bad. What's not perfect?" and we have a conversation. If they say they're perfect, shake hands, say good bye and be friends.

So, the short answer for my client is bring them to perfect.

If you'd like help developing your silo questions and/or helping your prospects admit they're not perfect, chat me up or book a call.

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