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Just Because It’s Interesting To You, Doesn’t Mean I Care

by David Brock on October 26th, 2013

The phone rang, a sales person introduced himself asking, “Who’s in charge of credit card processing?”  Whenever, I don’t know the answer to those things, I say it’s me.  He then went on with his pitch.  With one glaring problem, the pitch was actually pretty good.  He offered some insight in changes that were happening in credit card processing (as a result of legislation) that would dramatically increase processing fees.  He then asked, “Have you seen big changes in your credit card processing fees?”

I replied, “No, and I’m not really interested in this conversation.”  Sensing I was about to hang up, he said, “You really need to be interested in this, it’s a huge issue!  I can really help you!”

I responded, “I really don’t care.”  He then asked, “Was it something I did?”  You know the end of this story.

The problem wasn’t what he did, it was what he didn’t do.  See he never asked me about our credit card processing, he never tried to understand why I didn’t care.  See, we do offer credit card payments as a convenience to our clients.  In the past year, I can count the number of transactions on one hand, and the total amount was a few thousand dollars.  Credit card payments are a negligible part of our business.  Even if the transaction rates double, the fees we pay are so small, it’s not worth my time to worry about it.  It’s simply not important to me.

This issue was clearly important and interesting to the sales person.  I can imagine lots of businesses where it will be important to the business owners.  I simply don’t care.  The error the sales person made was that he assumed that because it was an important issue to him, it would be an important issue to me.

It’s a common mistake–not just with sales–but in many conversations.  We’re driven by our own agendas and goals. We have an issue that’s important to us, usually it’s about what we sell.  We’re enthusiastic, we know what we can do to help our customers.  We want to make sure the customers know we can help them.

But it’s irrelevant meaningless conversation, if the customer doesn’t care.  In fact it’s worse, it annoys the customer, creating negative reactions or perceptions to you and what you are offering.

So it’s critical that we determine what the customer cares about.  It used to be that we could call the customer and start asking them some questions.  For example, this person might have asked me, “Is accepting credit cards a big part of how you do business with your customers?”  But he didn’t, he jumped right into the issues without getting some basic information to shape his comments in a way that might have been more interesting and relevant.

But it’s harder to do this, customers are busy, they have built great defenses.  When someone calls and asks, “may I speak to the person responsible for……..,”  we know we are getting a sales pitch.

The only thing our customers are interested in is what they are interested in.  It’s our job to figure it out, then to position our solutions in the context of what they are interested in.  If we don’t understand what they are interested in, we will never connect.

Do you focus on what you are interested in or what interests your customers?

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  1. Anthony de Gale permalink

    Too true. I’m going to share this post with my contacts in payments sector.

    Great job!

  2. David,

    Good post.

    You end your post with the following:
    “The only thing our customers are interested in is what they are interested in. It’s our job to figure it out, then to position our solutions in the context of what they are interested in. If we don’t understand what they are interested in, we will never connect.”

    I think that the reason people don’t connect is that they don’t have time, money and energy to find out whether you care.. It sounds simple but we are living in an “attention” economy where we make decisions so quickly, such that people are so happy that they got your attention for that short time, thus, instead of trying to find out whether you care, they prefer to lead with their pitch and hope that it hits the mark. As you point out in your post, most of these type of pitches miss their mark. I am not sure this is going to change.

    • Jay You make an awesome point, “we don’t have the time….” It’s amazing to me, that we are willing to waste our time, the customer’s time, go through many missteps, keep trying, when it’s so easy to do it right in the first place. A little time spent researching, planning, then sharp execution saves so much time and makes us more impactful. Thanks for the great comment.

  3. David,

    I believe that the issue you describe is pervasive. It is the undoing of many sales people because they don’t even realize that they are shadow-boxing with the customer. It is also a source of discord in personal relationships. In either case, the “customer” is disengaged.

    Comedians have great insight to human behavior. Case in point:
    A prosperous businessman is matched with a beautiful, accomplished woman. She accepts his offer for a dinner-date at an exclusive restaurant. The guy dominates the conversation talking about himself — the models he dated, his powerful job, high income, lifestyle, luxury car, highrise condo, ski lodge, beach house — Yadda Yadda Yadda.
    When entrees arrive, he says, “Excuse me for dominating the conversation. I want to hear about you.”
    “What do you think of me?”

    • Great story Vince. I’m tempted to respond: “A sales person walks into a bar……..” 😉

  4. Hi David,

    We sellers and marketers need to read your post every Monday before we start the working week in order get our heads in the right place.

    Are we relevant? does the potential prospect even have the problem we can help solve through using our products/services?

    A great question the sales rep could have asked when he/she opened the call is: – “David, we know use credit cards to take payments, is the commission you are paying for the service something you even care about?”

    At which point you would have said “no it isn’t” and the rep could have saved you both time, by ending the call.

    This is typical of yesterdays interrupt-driven email SPAM and cold-calling approach, salespeople calling a list of names, without even checking to see if you are a company big enough to care about the problem…. “it’s a numbers game, make the dials, always be closing” to which we have added “insight” as if that provides legitimacy to the approach.

  5. This post should remind us sales people how much time we have wasted spoon-feeding unwanted information to potential clients and annoyed them instead of helping them. However, noble and genuine our services or products may seems, our technique lacks human connections. I guess we just wanted to strike gold too soon 😀

  6. David –

    This post made me smile. I have listened to some painful calls, and made a handful myself. Most often a result of one party talking about something the other doesn’t care about.


    • We all have been at the receiving end of far too many of these calls. Hopefully, we learn from that and aren’t on the delivery end of the process 😉

  7. Charlie Baker permalink

    This encounter sounds like one where the sales man’s mind wasn’t fresh. I think that a lot of the time it isn’t whether or not people possess the right skills to do their job, I think it’s that they are so overwhelmed with quotas, that they can forget the basic principles of selling.

    I was reading the other day about recharging your sales career and good tips on how issues like this can be avoided in the field. One good takeaway I found from it is that your body feels good, which indirectly can affect your mind and thus your work. It was a good read.


  8. Charlie Baker permalink

    Thanks, David. Keep up the good work!

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