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Can You Make A Sales Call Without Talking About Your Product?

by David Brock on June 28th, 2018

Imagine you have an appointment with your ideal customer.  The only constraint is that you can’t talk about your product.

Could you make the call?  What would it look like?

I suppose you could talk about the weather, exchange chit chat about the World Cup, perhaps the latest baseball games or cricket matches.

But that wouldn’t be very satisfying to you  or the customer.  It probably would be a very short meeting, because your ideal customer probably doesn’t like to have her time wasted.

What could you possible talk about that would be a good use of the customer’s time?

A good start would be to talk about what the customer is most interested in talking about.

But you’d be wasting your time, and possibly be unqualified if you just spoke about any topic your customer is interested in.

You’d have to harness the discussion to talk about challenges they have about the problems you are the best in the world about solving.

But you’d be forced to talk about it from their perspective–not pitching your product features, functions, feeds, and speeds.

You’d be forced to get the customer to talk about the issues and how it impacts them and their organization.  You’d have to drill down asking them to define the issues specifically.  You’d probably then ask them how it impacts them.  You’d immediately get into how important the issue is in the scheme of things.

You might then guide the discussion to what they’d like to change, when, and why.  You’d probably follow that up by asking their goals or “what would it look like if that problem/challenge were eliminated?”

You might help them realize there might be different ways to look at or think about the issues.  Or you might help them understand they may be overlooking important aspects about the problem or things to consider as they look to eliminating the problem.  These, of course, wouldn’t be product/solution capabilities, these would be change and risk management issues.

Through the conversation, you would help the customer shape their thinking about their urgency in addressing the issues, the impact they of the change, you’d help them create a vision of a future state where they be moving past the problem, addressing new opportunities.

Properly executed, by the end of the meeting, the customer will be left with one question.

“How can you help me do this?”

It’s only then that your solution is relevant–in fact critical to them.  At that point they will be hungry to learn how you can help them.

Think about your next critical meeting with a customer.  Imagine what that meeting would look like without ever mentioning your products.  Even if the customer asks you, don’t give into the temptation, shift the conversation away from the product, focusing on the customer.  Develop your call plan, then execute it.

Magic happens when you do this.

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6 Comments
  1. This is a brilliant “thought experiment,” which really should be the model for any successful sales conversation. The essence of a good sales call should highlight the customer and their interests, concerns, needs; the introduction of the seller’s product into the conversation should only be anchored in that discussion.
    Framing this as a thought experiment really throws that simple insight into focus.
    Very clever, very thought-provoking.

  2. Richard Turner permalink

    I’ve always thought of sales in a narrow minded focus on what is being sold as the primary point. This opens a new line of thinking and evolves the customer conversation so much more. It helps to address concerns they have while getting a product into the customers hand with a vision moving forward. This would drive repeat business for the future. Thank you for taking the time to share this.

  3. Geoffrey Moore calls it “the provocative sale”. We’re all familiar with “Challenger” although it’s different than what the name implies. “Hypothesis selling” is another.

    Whatever nomenclature, the only valuable conversation is one about the customer, what their pain and objectives are, how you may be able to help and what the results of your help would look like.

    Of course this means work. Hard work, not just showing up and throwing up. Requires some acumen as well.

    Anything else is a waste of everybody’s time.

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