Teach the kid, not the lesson

My wife and I were sipping cocktails before dinner one night when she said “You can learn a lot when you let them talk.” She’s a fourth grade teacher, and she was referring to her students, specifically in terms of what they need in order to get to the next level of their educational development. 
She says, “Too many teachers just teach. They present the lessons and the kids either get it or they don’t. It works better when you engage the kids in the conversation. That way you can tell whether they’re getting it or not, and if not, you often learn why they’re not getting it, and that helps you to refine your teaching strategy.”
In other words, she said you have to teach the kid, not the lesson. To put that in sales training terms, you have to sell the customer, not the printing company. So please ask yourself, are you doing that, or are you locked into a presentation style as opposed to a consultative selling style?
Let them talk
I know that you are proud of your company, your capabilities, your offset and/or digital presses and the ability to print brochures and catalogues and QR codes on anything from postcards to posters and banners.
What you need to know is that I’d rather talk about my stuff than listen to you talk about yours. If you don’t let me do that, I’m probably going to start tuning you out pretty quickly. And here’s something else you need to know. I can do that without showing you that I’m not really listening to what you are saying.
So here’s the question, are you communicating if you’re talking and I’m not really listening?
Make them talk
Here’s still another thing you need to know. If you’re talking to someone else’s customer, you really need them to have problems – or at least opportunities that their current supplier is not helping them to recognise and capitalise on. If they have no problems, why would they stop buying from that other printer and start buying from you?
I define prospecting in a number of ways. One of them is the search for dissatisfied customers. If you can find some other printer’s dissatisfied customers, you are well on your way to developing a new happy customer of your own. But it’s not always easy, because many of them don’t want to admit that they have made bad decisions. Beyond that, many of them cling to their status quo, and that can include sticking with an imperfect supplier (the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know) or ignoring new marketing opportunities (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it).
So please understand that when you are prospecting, the status quo is your enemy. And the first step towards defeating that enemy is to identify and understand it. That may mean getting beyond letting them talk to a point where you actually make them talk. You do that by asking good questions – provocative questions – and then by resisting the temptation to start talking again if an answer is not immediately forthcoming. 
A successful and talented salesperson once told me that sales conversations often get to the point where the next one to talk loses. “I had to learn,” he told me, “not to let the people I was trying to sell to off the hook. Asking the questions was easy. The hard part was waiting for the answer. But once I learned how to do that, I found that they often told me everything I needed to know.”
So here’s the moral of this story: Education is all about the kid. Selling is all about the customer. If that is the way you are selling, you’re in pretty good shape. If it’s not, though, your strategy needs some serious adjustment.
By the way, I also define prospecting as the search for people with a good attitude. “I’m happy to talk with you,” is a good attitude. “The devil you know” is not, nor is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Don’t ever forget that when you encounter a bad attitude, you have to change it. Otherwise they will be fighting you rather than thinking about working with you.
Dave Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, a graphic arts industry consulting firm based in the US. He is a popular speaker who has delivered keynotes and seminars at industry events across the world and in Australia with the recent PMG Print Sales Events. He is the author of “Sell More Printing” (2009) and “Listen To The Dinosaur” (2010). Visit his website at www.davefellman.com.

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