A friend of mine owns a bar near where I live, and earlier this week we talked about marketing really for the first time in an extended manner.
Our conversation covered a lot of ground – his target market, product mix, the role of special offers and couponing, social media, etc.
About an hour in, he looked at me and said, “You know, this entire time you haven’t used the two words I hear over and over from sales reps and consultants and everyone else that walks in here and tells me what I need. You haven’t once said to me ‘you should.'”
I may know sales & marketing, but I don’t know much about running a bar. And until I devote the time to really understand the mechanics not just of running a bar, but running THIS bar, I have no right to tell the owner (friend or not) what he should or should not do.
This is true for all new clients in our business. As I get to know who they are, I immediately have impressions, opinions, instincts about what might work. And I’ll happily share those ideas. But they still need to be filtered through the wisdom, experience and perspective of those inside the company who know the business and industry better than I. Only over time can I combine go-to-market experience with a better understanding of this specific business. And only then, do I earn the right to start using the two words above.
Today’s best sales professionals know this lesson well. Even if they’re sure they have a solution the prospect “should” engage, they ask consultative and qualifying questions first to understand the opportunity and, if appropriate, put their solution in context and perspective. And if they’re really good, they still never use the words “you should.”
Instead, they earn the right to hear the prospect say back, “we should.” That’s when you know you’re on the right track.