Once You Know How to Talk to the Right People--Learn
by Shel Horowitz
We've spent the last two issues on how to find and talk to your perfect
audience. This time, as promised, a little lesson in listening skills. It may be the single most important marketing lesson you can
learn, because, more than anything else, it's the method that will get your prospects to *call you.* And often, if they're calling you because
you're highly recommended, you have the sale if you don't mess it up.
Think about it this way. Would you rather buy from someone who takes the
time to determine your issues, your needs, and your desires--or from someone shoving a canned pitch down your throat?
And if you prefer to buy from someone who listens rather than be sold to with an aggressive sales pitch, don't you think your prospects want the
I first stumbled on this idea many years ago, in a book by Tad Tuleja. He talked about the salespeople who understood this process (it's often
called "consultative selling"), and how incredibly successful they were. and how they secretly gloated when they saw their competitors lugging in
slide projectors, because that meant they had canned presentations and weren't going too listen. I've since read many books that explore this
idea, and I've seen it work in the real world.
My own newest book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, goes into quite a bit of detail about customer-focused selling
strategies. Let me give you a brief excerpt quoting Mike O'Horo, of Sales Results, Inc. (one of a number of
high-powered experts I quote in the book):
"Get permission from people who already want your product--and change the focus from an unwanted intrusion to a welcome--and
rewarded--provision of service."
Create a profile of your best current buyers--then look for prospects who match that profile. When you find them, don't pitch! Identify the
"demand trigger": the problem your prospect urgently needs solved.
Investigate collaboratively: ask quest ions and listen. Only switch to solution mode if the prospect decides to take action. Once the buyer
concludes that you offer four or five times greater value than the perceived risk, he or she feels compelled to buy.
Don't focus on product features, or even on generic benefits; stick to on your client's specific and deep needs. Avoid the trap of pushing
product; don't be "the most expensive human catalog." O'Horo says the
buyer cares only about how you can improve three factors: the effect the client desires, the
relationship between value and commitment, and
self-interest ego needs.
Independent of your offer, ask deep, probing questions:
* "What is the biggest problem you face?"
* "How important is this problem?"
* "What positive effects would you expect if you fixed it--and what benefit would that have for your business?"
* "How does the problem affect you personally?"
Once you've asked, "shut up and listen." From the buyer's answers, you'll both recognize whether the issue actually needs attention--then
let the *client* conclude that the cost of inaction is too high.
Explore why the problem hasn't been solved; ask, "what are the barriers to solving this problem?" Then determine how many others are affected.
Ask, "who beside yourself is the natural champion to lead the charge within your company?" Those people become natural allies in the selling
process too; they are sponsors or champions.
Of course, the book goes into a lot more detail than I can cover in this column--along with other "marketing heresies" such as the idea that
market share doesn't matter to most businesses, and that businesses can do very well by doing good in the world.
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© 2004 by Shel Horowitz
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