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How to Get Customers to Talk to Sales People

Author: David Brock

Universally, it seems the biggest challenge sales people face is getting customers to talk to us.

Every sales person I meet, most of the articles I read focus on how we get customers to talk to us.  There is endless research on why customers and prospect don’t like talking to sales people. We know customers are seeking to self educate–surprisingly visiting our company websites, but not wanting to talk to us. Visiting other websites, participating in other discussions, looking to other resources.

It seems that customers want to learn and are actively engaged in learning—but from anyone but us. Increasingly, they want to go through as much of their buying process as they can, before talking to us.

Our reactions, with the help of marketing, are to keep reaching out to customers–sending endless emails, making 1,000 dials a day, doing everything we can to reach customers. And the results of these are terrible–open rates, telephone pick ups, engagement rates keep reaching new lows.  Our reactions are to pump up the volumes of these things that aren’t producing adequate results.

Increasingly, it seems things aren’t working at a bigger and faster scale.

Press the Reset Button

Perhaps it’s time to pause and go back to basics. How do we get someone to talk to us?

Think about a social setting, perhaps you are at a party, a trade show, or some event. Someone walks up to you and starts the conversation by talking about themselves. They talk about how great they are, the people they know and work with, all the wonderful things they do.

What’s your reaction to that individual?

I know mine is to escape as quickly as I can. I may nod and smile, but in my mind I’m plotting my escape strategy. I divert my attention, if it’s at a party, I escape to get more food or a drink.  Maybe I beg off saying I have to go to the bath room.

When I see those people trying to approach me (there must be some sort of “spidey-sense”) I immediately go into avoidance mode, perhaps turning and going another direction, getting in deep conversation with the wait staff about how wonderful the appetizers are–asking for the recipes……

Everyone has the same reaction.  We don’t want to hang around people that only want to talk about themselves, how great they are, and the things they are interested in.

Each of us has similar personal experiences, similar reactions, and similar aversions to those types of people. Yet we employ just those tactics in most of our prospecting approaches, getting similar results.

Feeling Inquisitive?

Who is the person that we want to talk to in those social settings? Usually, it’s someone who, rather than talking about themselves, asks questions about us. They want to learn who we are, what we are interested in, what drives us. Then as part of the conversation, they share something they know we are interested in. Perhaps a book they read, a movie the saw, a recent trip—all based on things that we’ve indicated we are interested in.

As the conversation progresses, through the stories, we also learn more about that individual.  We share experiences, ideas, learn from each other, perhaps laugh and have fun. We become interested in them, largely because they are interested in us.

It seems so obvious. Perhaps the best way to get customers to talk to us is to first demonstrate our interest in them.

Why is this so difficult to do? Why do we consistently choose to do the opposite, when we know it produces poor results?

David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more. Read more blogs from Brock here.

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