Listen and Earn

by Kenny Pratt

So often we think of selling as having the right words to say at the right time.  But often the right words only come if we have listened first.  In his book,  The Knack (which I highly recommend),  Norm Brodsky tells the story of how listening was critical to winning the business of a potential client who was touring his record storage business in New York.

I think we can all learn from his entertaining story, and he tells it better than I do. So here’s the excerpt:

Oddly enough, one of the best ways to increase sales is also the most obvious, although you’d be amazed how few people actually use it.  I’m talking about listening to customers.  It happens so rarely these days that you can actually gain a competitive advantage just by doing it.

I’ll give you an example.  One day, i was showing two people from a large New York law firm through our records storage facility, hoping they would give us their business. We hadn’t gone too far before one of them, the office manager, said, “By the way, we want to keep all of our boxes in numerical order.  If you take one out, we want it put back in exactly the same spot.”

Now,  normally, we don’t file boxes in a particular order.  Our barcoding system allows us to find boxes instantaneously no matter where they’ve been stored. But I always try to give customers what they want, and third potential customer had jut told e what she wanted.  I said, “Fine, no problem.”

She looked at the other person, then back at me.  “Aren’t you going to tell me I’m crazy?” she asked.

“You didn’t ask my opinion,” I said.  “You told me what you wanted, and I’m sure you have your reasons.”

She started to laugh. “Well, everywhere else we’ve gone, they’ve tried to talk us out of it.  You’re the first per son who just said, ‘Yes.'”

We got the account.

You’ve probably heard a million instances where a prospective customer asks about the availability of a specific sized storage space, and the  self storage professional insists on figuring out if, in their professional opinion and based on a limited verbal description, the customer is asking about the right size.

If you do that, just stop.

You probably have at least one unit available that is bigger, and at least one available that is smaller than the size in question.  Correcting the customer while wooing them is very difficult.  Why try?   The prospective customer will figure it out when she sees the space for herself.  In the mean time, respect her intelligence.  She asked about a specific size and she has her reasons.

There is plenty of other ground to cover in the sales process to waste time second guessing your customer. Instead you should be listening and earning.

Previous post:

Next post: