The headline above may be the most important professional question that you ask of yourself and your customers (present and prospective). Now you may be better off asking it (at least with your clients) in a more polite way, such as "What's the unique selling proposition your product or service offers?" Or, "What's the pain point that you address?" Or, "Why do people shop here?" Or, "Why don't people shop here?" Or, "Why do people come into your place to transact but often leave without doing so?" Or, "With whom do you compete and why do you win when you do, or lose when you do?" Or, "Where do your customers come from?" Or, "What is their expectation when they call or visit you?" Or, "Which of your products or services are the most sought?" Or, "Which of your line(s) moves the quickest?" Or, "Which has the highest margin?"
Or... If you're really exceptional at what you do, you'll think of many, many more before you get into the "How do you know that?" follow-up question to each of their responses. (At our company, we don't dress in the morning before calling our research partner to find out the weather). By the way, there isn't a business, in business, that wouldn't benefit from you provoking some brainstorming around some of the queries above, and trust me, I've just scratched the surface. And there are any number of businesses in both great and tough economic times that stop being in business because neither their executives nor their "vendors" force them to think about these issues.
I would submit that your customers would be a lot better off and you'd be a lot more successful if you walked into the meeting(s) with a host of provocative questions, rather than your sample bag.
Now here's the truth. Your customer likely doesn't know why he's not doing better because if he did, he would be. The exceptional, uncommon and remarkable salesman comes prepared to encourage a meaningful conversation that delves into all the imaginable elements that, if prioritized and shaped into a mosaic of "to do's" reasonably portend growth.
One new-to- market web site that I am pleased to advise, has a brilliant visionary as it's founding CEO. Yesterday, she and another adviser and I had one of our periodic calls during which she both updated us on her progress and tabled the three issues which she believed were impeding progress. In the course of the twenty minute conversation the three of us asked each other enough questions and follow-up questions to have found a fourth element that we all agreed superceded her other three and most needed to be solved for growth. That kind of focus on the needs of others (in this case how do we best help her?) offers the best shot at growth. In the case of the salesman it offers the answer to the question, "What's so special about you?" And if answered satisfactorily, earns the salesman the trust of the customer and the right to help/sell!
So...what is so special about you?
Serve Don't Sell
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