On Being Sold To

You have put your life’s work into building a business which makes and sells Fake Zebra Fur Coats.  Or recently you got a sales job for Fake Zebra Fur Coats Ltd.  Either way, I understand and appreciate your passion for Fake Zebra Fur Coats.  We all need to make a living.

*cough* Learning Management Systems *cough*

You have identified me as someone who might, just, buy a Fake Zebra Fur Coat – or who might pass you on to somebody else who might – or who might put in a good word on social media for the Fake Zebra Fur Coat marketplace, specifically with some kind references to your own prodigious talents in this area.

Here’s some advice.

If I am somebody with a genuine, well thought-through need for a Fake Zebra Fur Coat, then ask me questions about that need and BLOODY LISTEN.  I am already talking to other people about my genuine need.  Those people are probably spending too much time telling me about their wonderful Fake Zebra Fur Coats, barely controlling their excitement at a sale, and plotting how to upsell me onto Fake Zebra Fur Coat extended warranties and matching accessories.

*cough* premium hosting options and maintenance contracts  *cough*

You will stand out if you just listen.  As in, BLOODY LISTEN.  Do the talking later.

Second scenario: if I am somebody with a probable need for something in the warm clothing line, but not entirely sure what, but I have somebody else’s money to spend, and am keen to get on and spend it – in short, if my need doesn’t actually match your product – then also, guess what, ask me questions and just BLOODY LISTEN.  By talking about your product, I may begin to suspect your motives.  By listening, you will get a sense of how to position Fake Zebra Fur Coats to be the exact answer to all my needs, not to mention the fulfilment of my secret dreams and my route to a bonus.  But only if you BLOODY LISTEN.

*cough* organisations looking desperately for all-in-one business-wide learning solutions whilst under pressure to prove Return on Investment *cough*

Third scenario: if I turn out to be somebody with no apparent interest in Fake Zebra Fur Coats, then what’s the point of going on about them?  Just BLOODY LISTEN, you might learn something about something entirely different.  Either way, I will feel good about being listened to, and when at the end you ask me casually whether I know anybody who might be interested in Fake Zebra Fur Coats, I will probably give the matter some serious thought.  Maybe you’ll get a lead.

No doubt there is a theory of sales which says it all much more elegantly.  But can I just say, Dear Industry, as somebody who is frequently “sold at”, that I would put listening skills at the heart of your personal skills profile.  And Dale Carnegie on top of your reading list.

This is the problem with hiring extroverts as salespeople.  Extroverts have an inbuilt advantage as the people with the brass [gender-neutral biological noun denoting courage] to knock on doors and start conversations, and then have an inbuilt disadvantage as the people who will just gab on about their product, without listening to the potential customer.  There must be a name for this Paradox.

And before anybody in organisational L&D gets all smug and superior, at all these crass salespeople trying to sell you Fake Zebra Fur Coats (integrated virtual learning environments), remember that we’re salespeople as well – just internal salespeople.  We’ve also put our life’s work into building a business which makes and sells Fake Zebra Fur Coats (a suite of high-quality learning interventions) – or picked up a job there anyway – and now we’re worried about drop-off and drop-out rates and a recent decline in trade.  We’re the ones buttonholing our own staff and gabbing on about what’s on offer.

*cough* Learning and Development functions pushing their own approaches to learning and pet programmes and products without actually bothering to listen systematically to what people on the frontline of the organisation actually need *cough*

We also need to BLOODY LISTEN.


Image copyright: Pixabay (labelled free for noncommercial reuse)


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