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The Genuine Interest Approach

     This BEAM is on a #sales topic that I find it necessary to visit again and again. The topic of asking your clients questions. Yes, I know that every other sales consultant and trainer is harping on this point. But helping sales people improve, without addressing this need is like: Trying to teach people how to swim without first teaching them to float.

     Being honestly concerned about the wants of your client or prospect is a critical foundation to sales excellence. You can always tell the rep that is just interested in them-self and not their customer. They stand out like a sore thumb, reek of pettiness and insincere sales ploys. — These Shallow sales approaches can work to an extent, in some settings but not most. And a more competent, professional sales style always involves a more sincere interest in the customer, and this wise approach will work in every setting.

     My wife and I are on vacation. We own a time-share in Hilton Head, South Carolina. And a regular part of this annual journey is the “owner’s meeting.” It is presented as a time to inform owners about new developments with their property but usually turns into an unwelcome stage, for high pressure sales tactics. With an experienced background in nearly every kind of sales setting; I am the worst guy to try to use a cheap force feeding sales approach with. It never works.

     So when the representative was to begin our hour long session, (which was promised to be right there at the location), by demanding rather insistently that we get in his car and go somewhere else. This did not work out very well. He made no friend and He made no sale.

     A simple question or two about what we expected and what we were told to get us there, BEFORE he tried to kidnap us and take us elsewhere; could have yielded better results. Or at least avoided a potential disaster.

     Being genuinely interested in your prospect or client always involves the use of Open Questions. Open questions are best understood as those that are used to encourage conversation, without influencing the answer. They Set the stage and they avoid horrible misfires, like the Time-Share salesman who tried to force feed me in a sales approach, before he knew a single thing about me.

      If you ask No questions, you are fishing in a bath tub and have no idea what you are aiming for. If you ask the wrong questions, you’ll probably get the wrong answer, or at least not quite what you’re hoping for.

     So remember, it is more important to get your client to open up; than for you to. And this only happens with Open Questions. Open questions elicit longer answers. They usually begin with what, why, how. An open question asks the person for his or her knowledge, opinion or feelings. “Tell me” and “describe” can also be used in the same way as open questions. Here are some examples:

  • What happened to make you feel that way?

  • Why do you think that is true?

  • How was your experience with the last service like this one, that you purchased?

  • Tell me what you are looking for.

  • Describe for me, what you really want in detail.

     These open questions or requests are the key to getting on the same page as your customer. You are unlikely to get to first base with your prospect if you don’t know what they want or expect from you.

     Probing questions are the cornerstone of the consultative selling process. There is that huge word; “Consultative!” The whole point of this idea is to be a consultant, instead of just a sales person. To be a trusted adviser, instead of just a hawk predator. This turns you from the adversarially viewed sales person, to a sought after helper.  It transforms your image to the prospect from foe, to friend. And the best way to work on this mindset is to become an expert at the needs and wants of your prospects; FOR REAL.

     Genuine curiosity evokes genuine responses. The best way we can serve our clients is by knowing what’s going on in their worlds. And the best way to find out what’s going on in their worlds is to ask them open-ended questions—the kind of questions that get them talking.

Genuine Interest demonstrates Integrity!

     I hope you will open yourself up to a new mind-set. What I am trying to teach is a more interested way of thinking. (Not interesting but interested – in your customers). This involves more than just helping with a standard list of questions or techniques at asking better questions. If I can help you become truly interested in the thoughts and feelings of your clients; This “Way of Interest” thinking will come across in your communication.  Your sales strategy will transform from practiced lines to living dialogue.  It will not be a “canned approach”, any more. This mindset will empower you  and let you come across with the signals, you need to make more sales.

     Oh, before I wrap up this tidy reminder that learning to be honestly more interested in your customers is the chief ingredient to better consultative selling; I need to give you a HUGE CAUTION.

PAY ATTENTION TO THIS BIG, DO NOT!

       If the clients interests, opinions or preferences are unclear to you after asking a question and hearing their answer. DO NOT PROCEED. DO NOT BE THE PUSHY SALESMAN who pushes them away before figuring what they are all about. If you did not get what your customer was trying to tell you. Ask them again! Repeat the substance of your question, with sincere interest. Don’t insult them by not listening the first time they answer you but don’t push on blindly either, without a clear idea. Tell your prospect honestly that understanding them is really important to you and ask them to explain further, as you take note.

     When a mechanic listens to what you tell him, tests the car & runs a diagnostic on the car; you feel much better about his advice. Warming up to your customer, getting to know them and their needs and really thinking about what is best for them will often times win your customer over; before you even begin to sell them.  On many occasions, my genuine interest in a prospect has caused them to decide to buy from me; BEFORE I have even tried to sell them.

       Try the Genuine Interest Approach. It will make you a better sales professional AND a better human being.

Tim G. Carter – AKA “SLAM”

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4 Responses to “The Genuine Interest Approach”

  1. Excellent post, Slam! And such an important tenet. I try to ingrain this into my students and clients who are more focused on results. But results come from genuinely caring about your prospects well being. Your business will flourish when you are invested in others and not jsut your bottom line. : )

  2. Tim, thank you so much for this post. This is the hardest thing to teach sales people. And maybe because this is more an attitude question rather than aptitude. I always look for this “genuineness” quality when I am interviewing for the role. Cheers! Edwin ( @epicgig ).

    • Thanks for the read, Edwin. You are right. Many skills can be taught but natural attitudes are crucial. That is one reason I concentrate on fulfillment so much, in the sales process. Sales professionals who feel better about life in general, do better with their sales careers in particular. Thanks for the comments!


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