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Interruption Based Selling!

by David Brock on April 12th, 2012

I’ve been following a discussion on cold calling.  The topic of “Interruption Based Selling” came up, with several people taking strong stands against this.

Frankly, I think it’s our obligation to “Interrupt”–particularly if we want to create real value for our customers.  Waiting for the customer to reach out, waiting for the customer to recognize a need is often too late–both for the customer and most of the time for sales.

Our customers are just like everyone else.  They’re incredibly busy just doing their jobs.  They are consumed with keeping things going.  They don’t have the time, or may not be motivated to think of how they can improve or change their businesses.  Perhaps, every once in a while, in a strategic planning retreat, they think about the future, they think about innovation, they think about change.  But then, on Monday they go back to their jobs, and the best of intentions fall by the wayside.

Problems occur, then our customers are motivated to solve the problems–that is what they perceive the problem to be.  They begin to research, they look at alternative solutions, they find a few potential solutions, if we’re lucky we get a phone call.  They say, “This is what I want…..  It looks like you have a solution….  I have a couple of questions….   What’s your best price?”

If we don’t want to “Interrupt,” this becomes our world as sales people:   We wait for the phone call. 

The problem is, what if there aren’t enough phone calls?  What if the volume, timing, and flow is insufficient to meet our goals?  Do we intensify our blogging efforts, do we run more ads, do we do more seminars, do we engage in a frenzy of activity to attract interest?  Do those things create the volume of calls that enable us to meet our goals?

We know this is wrong for us, but it’s wrong for the customer.  What if the customer diagnoses their problem incorrectly?  What if they are looking at the symptoms and not the real problems?  What if the research they do includes information that might be inaccurate, out of date, or just plain wrong?  Our customers are expert in running their operations, but they may not be expert in determining the best solutions to their problems.

It’s wrong for the customer from another point of view, why should they have to incur the problem before they change?  What if they could pre-empt the problem and avoid it?  They may not recognize they have a problem brewing, but we are expert in knowing the problems we solve and in identifying them–or identifying the early symptoms of the problems.  Don’t we owe it to our customers to “interrupt” them and call the problem to their attention?

It’s wrong for the customer because they may miss opportunities.  They may be so busy in the day to day exectution of their jobs, they don’t have the time to think about new possibilities, they don’t have the time to look at new opportunities.  They may be prisoners of their own experience and may not even recognize opportunities that are presenting themselves.  Don’t we owe it to our customers to “interupt” them and teach them about the new opportunities or possibilities?  Don’t we owe it to them to think about the future.

Sales is about change.  Change is a disruption to the status quo, an interruptions to what customers are currently doing.  However we choose to couch it, what we do is interrupt the customer.

The term “interruption” is polarizing.  None of us like to be interrupted.  Whether it’s expressing a thought in a meeting–and someone interrupts us as we are speaking, or we are preoccupied with the tasks that are on our to do lists, we don’t like to be interrupted.

So like it or not, if we are to be successful and if we are to help our customers succeed, we have to interrupt. 

I think the problem with interruptions are those that are just a waste of time, those that create no value for the customer.  Those are not only intrusive, but they are unforgivable.

I interrupt my customers and prospects every day.  While we may have scheduled a meeting, I am disrupting their normal routine.  None of them block time to talk to consultants or sales people.  I interrupt my customers and prospects with prospecting emails or other communications.  If I do my job when I interrupting my customers and prospects, the customers don’t view it as an interruption.  They will think they have used their time well, they have learned something.  Until that happens, it’s still an interruption — and I have to be really sensitive to the fact that I am interrupting them.  But I can’t let that stop me.  Customers and prospects will continue to let me “interrupt” their routine, as long as I use their time well.  While it may be an interruption, it’s neither intrusive nor unappreciated.

I understand the issue about interuptions, but the reality is a large part of our job as sales people is interupting our customers and prospects.  We shouldn’t shy away from it–this would be irresponsible to our customers and our companies.  But we have to be very sensitive to creating value in each interuption.  In the end, if the customer says, “That was a good investment of my time,” then it really hasn’t been intrusive or unappreciated.

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  1. David, this is another tough nut. Interruption and disruption are necessary. The problem, I believe many salespeople have always faced to how do this courteously and effectively. When a salesperson is not trained in how to properly invade a prospect’s and customer’s inner sanctum, the reps are set up for failure and rejection leading to the decision that assertion does not work.

    I recently wrote, “If you can’t get to 1st base, you can’t bring the business home.

    Understanding the customer, knowing how to properly approach them, and doggedly persist is fundamental training. Salespeople are either to aggressive and impersonal or too passive. There is an equilibrium that can be achieved with success. And you’re the person who can help sales teams achieve that.

    Excellent post!

    • Gary, thanks for the comment, you always bring great insights to the posts. You’ve hit on one of the core problems of why sales people are viewed as interupting — in the most negative sense. We waste our customer’s time, we don’t bring value. If we trained people how do to this properly and how to create great value in every interaction, while we are still “interupting,” the customer will actually value it, and through the relationship not view the exchanges as interuptions.

      What disturbs me, is that rather thant fixing the problem of the totally inappropriate approaches that are interuptions and wastes of time to the customer, too many are going to the other extreme–waiting for the phone to ring–which is the sure path to failure.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  2. >>>If I do my job when interrupting my customers and prospects, the customers don’t view it as an interruption. They will think they have used their time well, they have learned something. <<<


  3. Dave,
    I agree that you have to interrupt otherwise you can’t be in sales, but what many do not get is why would someone give you time? This is where it gets tricky in that you are either wasting time, offering nothing, or offering too much that is not believable. Unless you have something tangible or intriguing to offer, the interruption most likely will fail. And you only have one shot to do this.

    Anybody can interrupt but only good ones can get the attention.

    • Great point Jay. As I discuss in the article, if you know what’s important to your customer, focus on that, and can create value important to them, it’s never an interruption. But too often, we don’t do that–that’s where the problem is.

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