Sales and marketing

Are You Happy With Your Current… … …


Why do so many prospecting calls start with the questions, “Are you happy with…….?” Substitute whatever solution category you sell.  It could be any variety of sales and marketing automation tools, your banking relationships, your website, your janitorial services.

My answer is always, “I’m ecstatic with it!” After all, if I wasn’t happy and it was something important to me, I’d be doing something about it.

But a huge number of prospecting calls start with this question. Inevitably, when I proclaim how satisfied I am, the sales person goes silent. The majority are stumped.

They struggle with a few other questions about whether I’m happy or not, but the call comes to an uncomfortable silent point.  They are searching for unhappiness and don’t know what to do when they don’t discover it.

The call finally becomes one of uncomfortable silence, I’m waiting for them to catch my attention, but they don’t know what to say because they have only prepared to deal with those that express unhappiness.

Inevitably, you hear a disappointed, perhaps confused or stumped voice, timidly saying “Thank you,” then hanging up.

Let's Fix This

But what a huge lost opportunity!

Let’s start breaking this down:

1. First, “Are you happy….”  is a close ended question.  We never get people engaged and talking about themselves and their businesses by asking an opening question that has only two responses—Yes or No!  Our purpose in prospecting calls is to engage the prospect, learn, identify opportunities of shared interest.  This happens through insights that provoke a, “I’d like to learn more” response or open ended questions about things we know should be important to the prospect.

2. The people responding in the affirmative, are probably doing something about their unhappiness–at least if it’s a priority.  They may be well into a buying cycle, and if they haven’t already discovered you (in which case you wouldn’t be making the call in the first place), they probably have a number of alternatives they are already considering.  Inevitably, you have to mount a huge, “come from behind” effort to get into consideration.

3. The “Are you unhappy” question is always about a product, solution, or vendor—at least 99% of those I get. From this very first sentence, we are starting the conversation in the wrong place.  We are making their unhappiness all about what we sell and the alternatives.  It’s simply a variant of the product pitch.  We already know customers don’t care about us, they don’t care about our products, they don’t express their unhappiness in terms of what we sell. Customers’ happiness or unhappiness is always expressed in terms of their ability to achieve their business and personal goals.  They are expressed in terms of problems they are having in doing those things, opportunities they would like to seize but, for various reasons, can’t.

4. If we are going to ask the unhappiness question, it can’t be around a solution or implementation, but about themselves and their business.

5. We have to be prepared to deal with the “happy,” or “not unhappy” response.  It is human nature to resist change, after all, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Just because they are “happy,” or “not unhappy,” doesn’t mean they shouldn’t change. If we can’t engage the customer in a discussion of what they want to do, but can’t; what they could do, but were unaware of; what they dream of doing, but don’t know how; what they must do, but were unaware of the threat; then we miss huge opportunities to serve them, to create value, to grow our relationship, and to sell!

6. At the risk of being redundant and crass, being “happy” is an objection. Objections are always opportunities for us to learn.  And in that learning, we and the customer may discover opportunities in which we can engage them.  In the very least we can understand why they are happy with what they are doing, who their supplier is, and perhaps ask if there is anything on their “wish list” for doing things new.  While the prospect may not be unhappy with the way they are doing things now, or their current solution or vendor, there may be things they are missing and are simply unaware of.

The “Are you happy with your current…” question is dull, lazy, and a waste of everyone’s time. If you want to engage your prospects, if you want to increase your hit rate on prospecting calls, do the work to understand what might captivate your prospects’ imaginations and start there.

Wrapping this rant up, perhaps the only remaining question is, “Are you happy with this post….”  (Sorry couldn’t resist.)

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