Get Curious instead.

There’s a classic scene in Glengarry Glen Ross when Alec Baldwin gives his version of an inspirational sales speech. It’s anything but, and if you do watch it, be warned the language is strong. One of the main points is that salespeople should follow their ABC:  A – Always; B – Be, C – Closing. It’s scary because it’s probably a mantra many follow in some way shape or form. How many interviews for prospective sales people focus around “can you close?”

However, if you want to build a trusted relationship with your client or prospect it is far better to think differently and re-learn your ABC along the lines of A – Always; B – Be; C – Curious. The key here is to be curious and seek to understand what their goals and aspirations are and what is actually important to them.

This is key to building great rapport with anyone, not just a client. Are you actually interested in the other person? You have to put aside all personal motivation and try to understand the things that are running through their mind, and above all which ones of these they actually want to bring to a successful outcome. Here is the biggest trap that many people who are genuinely looking to build great business relationships fall into, be it consciously or unconsciously. They hear challenges or even facts being aired in a conversation and assume that the other person wants them solved. This is where the solution sales person springs into action. They hear a challenge or fact related to the product or service that they offer, this means it’s time for them to give the client the solution. This for many is the start of the sales process which ultimately leads to the close. A process in which you push the sale and the client is sold to. Or the client disengages as it wasn’t really a problem that they needed solving.

I’m just back from Brisbane, watching Keith Dugdale ask a room of senior business people if they like being sold to? No-one responded in a positive way. Then he asked them if they like buying things? They all admitted they did. It’s a question I’ve asked several professional services firms over the years and the response is pretty unilateral. Yet when we meet with a client we hunt for the opportunities to sell our offering.

So how do we help a client buy and stop ourselves from selling? The answer is in your ABC, in particular your C, be Curious. You can do this through the 3 practical steps below:

  1. Throw out your sales agenda. Yes, forget the pressures of the need to close the deal. Leave your own self-interest back in the office. Go meet the client, in fact go and meet the person and ask questions based on their agenda. Find out what’s important to them, be it personally or in business context. You’ll be amazed what you learn and how you may be able to help a client reach these outcomes even when there is absolutely zero financial reward for you.
  2. Check in on your assumptions. A truly great question to ask is, “before we go any further, can I just check that this is the most important thing to you right now, because if it isn’t, what is?” When offering this adjustment to the conversation give the client time, and you may find that you learn something very different and genuinely interesting.
  3. Don’t fake it, you won’t make it. You have to be genuinely interested in the other person’s world and what they want to achieve. Paying lip service to it will be seen through. Even if you are a fabulous actor people won’t buy it, if not in the moment then at some point. The result will be that the relationship will be broken, most likely beyond repair.

Commit to doing the above, stick with it and then when the time is right the client will most likely buy from you.  You’ll never have to make a sale again. Along with that you’ll hopefully have a lot of fun in learning about others and helping them to succeed.

If you want some help planning for your next meeting? Download our free client meeting planner template.