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What Conversations Are You Starting?

by David Brock on October 11th, 2010

Usually in sales, we aren’t starting conversations–we’re pursuing them or following up.  Perhaps, it’s a query from a prospect and we follow up, qualifying them and moving forward.  Sometimes we reach out to try to determine if the customer is interested in what we have to sell–too often with bad results.  But really we only get engaged once the customer has determined they have a problem and they want to do something about it.  What if we changed, what if we took the leadership and initiated things?

What conversations are you starting?  By this, I mean, how are you approaching your customers with new ideas and opportunities for improving and growing their business?  Think about it, everyone is time-poor.  We all have more on our plates than we can possibly deal with.  Too often, our customers are so busy with managing their business on a day to day basis–their heads are down, they are focused and they are charging full speed ahead.  They don’t have the opportunity to pause, look around and think about their businesses differently. 

Here’s an opportunity for sales people to create real value and offer leadership to customers.  We have the opportunity to study our customers’ industries, their customers, their businesses.  We have some distance from their everyday activities and are detached from their need to execute tasks.  We can ask things like, “What would be the impact if they did this?”  “Could they be more effective or efficient if they tried this?”  “Is there an opportunity for them to grow their business if they did that?” “I’ve seen others have great success doing these things, what if they did this—but with these twists?”

If we want to create real value for our customers, we need to be starting conversations with our customers.  We need to help them see new opportunities and possibilities.

To be honest, we can’t be successful if we aren’t starting these conversations.  By the time the customer comes to us, by the time they start the conversation, it may be too late.  They may have framed the discussion incorrectly, they may have narrowed the conversation in a way that disadvantages us and our ability to help them solve problems.  One of the problems many sales people tell me about is that customers are not starting enough conversations.  They have too few opportunities to pursue.

From our customers’ points of view, forcing them to start the conversation is problematic.  They’re simply too busy–until the issue becomes a crisis.  But sometimes, it’s too late, they may have lost customers, competitive advantage, or opportunity.

What conversations are you starting with your customers?  Are you providing them real leadership?

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8 Comments
  1. David,

    This is so important. It helps us frame what is often such a large problem ( and misconception) folks have about “listening” I think. What is there to listen too with if you can’t inspire (and as you suggest) in a credible value added way for a client to converse with you?

    Love your posts- I learn every time.

    • Mark, thanks for the comment and kind words. Sale has a tremendous opportunity to provide leadership to customers by helping them thinnk about business differently. We can start the conversations, provide ideas, create value.

  2. Hey Dave,

    This is a complicated subject.
    Becoming more proactive and putting the customers in the center i very difficult. Not many master it and most don’t understand what it is about.

    Thank you for this article. I think it might help people get a clearer view about what we should be doing in sales.

  3. David,

    The cool thing about initiating a conversation whether it’s with an existing customer or a new prospect is that it places you in the driver’s seat. You’re now the one driving the car and leading the sale. Plus, it also increases your credibility and demonstrates your knowledge and expertise.

    Keep up the great work!
    Kelley

    • Thanks for the comment Kelley, everything is so much easier if we drive the conversation–and we create more value for our customers.

  4. Dave

    Your post is right on. I think customers are yearning for genuine thought leadership.

    When I read what you’ve said, it makes me realize that when initiating conversations, It’s not just about putting ourselves in their shoes; that’s not leadership.
    Leadership is more than just relating to people, it’s coming alongside them, sharing our unique perspective of their business and issues; not just asking them what their issues are, but helping point out issues they may not even be aware of; and providing clarity on things that they may be missing because they are too close to the project.

    And the good news is that to lead you only need to be one step ahead of followers!

    Don F Perkins

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