question-606954_1280You may be thinking I am about to go off on an existential rant about authenticity, our place in the universe, or possibly a lecture on the appropriateness of a paleo diet.
Nah, let’s save those for a get together over coffee or other notes. Today, I’m sticking to an easy-to-implement, do it now, sales behavior.
The other day I serendipitously ran into an acquaintance at a local AA-ISP event. We fell into easy conversation and shared our recent professional histories. Right before it was time to settle down for the scheduled speaker, he asked if we could meet next week at his offices. “Of course!” I responded.
At his office after catching each other up on family goings-on, it was time to get down to business.
I viewed my attendance at the networking event as a marketing effort, so this first real meaningful conversation was the equivalent of an inbound lead. He was “inbound” since he took the first step with his invitation.
I had some options.  I could have started with a description of how I help clients similar to his company.  Then, described my offerings.  That, however, would have been a big mistake. It would have meant I would have to make an assumption correlating his team or company to one of my clients.  I would have also been assuming I knew which offering was most appropriate for him.  You may have heard what happens when you assume.
I could have started with some questions about his team, how many sellers, sales quotas, what they sell, what problems they are having.  Perhaps.  That line of questioning has its time, but not now, in the beginning.  It risked boring my host, or worse, bothering him as self-serving and tedious Q&A.
Instead, I asked a simple question:

“Why am I here?”

He chuckled probably realizing that this question perfectly put the onus on him to describe the reason he felt we needed to spend time together now.  This question’s brevity shocks a lot of people who expect salespeople to open with a long-winded soliloquy about their greatness. It demands thoughtfulness. His answer would tell me where he was in his buying process and what was most important to him.
“Why” gets to purpose and sets the agenda for the rest of our discussions.
Remember, he took action first with his invitation.  NO other question gets to the heart of the matter better in a real first meaningful conversation, which this was.
Consider this:  Where else do prospects take action first requiring a “Why” type – objective or purpose driven question?
Retail.  Retail clerks everywhere usually ask, “May I help you?” And what do we do?  We throw up the Heisman pose and reply, “no, just looking”  at least most of the time fearing the seller is operating on their agenda, not ours.heisman_trophy
But, isn’t walking into a store the same as inviting that store into your life? How much more effective would the clerk be if she asked, “What brought you into the store today?” which is a much softer and congenial but equal version of “Why are you here?” It demands a thoughtful answer telling the seller the main objective for the visit.
Inside Sales.  A prospect downloads an infographic, a white paper, attends a webinar, or just imagine, requests that a sales rep contact them.  The inside sales rep wants to engage the prospect.  Too often (you know who you are), the rep emails, speaks to, or leaves a voicemail for the prospect asking for time to introduce the prospect to the seller’s offerings or learn more about the prospects current situation.  Instead, the seller should merely ask a “Why am I here?” question such as:

“I’m wondering, why did you _____?” or
What’s going on that led you to ____?”

Website Visit.  Imagine if your web site creatively asked visitors early in the visit, “Why are you here?”  Isn’t that the reason for the elegantly simple yet amazingly effective google home page?
Implicitly, asks: “Why are you here?”
Your answer:  To search for something or because I feel lucky.
Bonus Effect”Why am I here” right at the beginning places both prospect and seller on even ground.  It subliminally screams, “I’m your equal, we are both busy business people, and I deserve to know whether I am wasting my time or not?” 
Back to my meeting.  My host sighed and related,  “We have 50 sellers and 50 sales methodologies and that’s what’s keeping us from transforming into one world-class sales machine.”
Long story short – our next step was my being invited back the following week to meet with other key players.
By the way, isn’t “Why am I here?”  the business equivalent of “WASSUP!”

SalesReformSchool Food for Thought

Here’s the seminal Simon Sinek TED talk on Starting With Why.
Please consider it SalesReformSchool required viewing.  Reserve 18 minutes of uninterrupted time, and mute your phone.  It’s that good.

SalesReformSchool – Extracurricular

One of the things I do to keep in shape and clear my head is to go for walks and listen to podcasts.  I’m currently using these awesome earbuds I received for my birthday.  I highly recommend them.
My three favorite podcasts:
1) The Tony Kornheiser Show – smart, adult conversation on current events and sports;
2) Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History – he makes me think differently; and
3) The Tim Ferriss Show – lifehacks and excellence.
That’s all for today.
Good Selling!
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Through SalesReformSchool, I am available to you for Sales Process Design, Sales Messaging Creation, On-boarding/In-boarding Sales Team Workshops, Keynote Addresses, Facilitation, Group or One-on-One Coaching, Pipeline Reviews and other Sales Management Consulting.