Sitting across from the marketing department as they were unveiling their new sales brochure, Ed proclaimed, "literature is for losers." The blood drained from their faces. Ed was the company's top sales person and their sales manager, and everyone knew his take on these things was critically important.
Why the "losers" comment? When Ed first goes into a meeting with a potential client he comes to the table with a blank sheet of paper. No brochure, no marketing material. How does Ed effectively sell without them?
Ed starts the conversation focused on the customer. He gets the customer talking about their business, their goals, their struggles. He doesn't interrupt, he listens. As he listens he takes notes and his sheet of paper starts filling up. On the right side he takes notes on the important information the client shares. On the left side, he notes any comments or questions he wants to share with the customer. This allows him to listen intently without forgetting important points. He doesn't try to solve their issues, at least not at this stage. He is present, he is interested, he is engaged.
What does the customer think? Dale Carnegie said "it is better to be interested than interesting." The irony is when you listen like this, with true interest, the person who you are speaking with finds you interesting.
When Ed finally gets to selling, he has built rapport, gained insight and has a much better idea of how to sell to this person effectively.
By the way, Ed doesn't hate brochures, he just doesn't lead with them. Ed will either leave them with the client or send them after the meeting.
So why not lead with those beautiful glossy brochures?
Let's see what might happen: Phil walks into the prospective client's office. He takes out the brochure and slides it across the table to the client. The client does what people do when handed something, she looks at it. She leafs through the brochure as Phil drones on about the benefits of doing business with his company. She is barely reading the brochure and she is barely listening to him. He finishes his pitch. She thanks him for meeting with her, and he leaves. The end.
He has missed the opportunity to connect, to build rapport, to learn what is important to her—and the sale.
Communication is ALWAYS more effective when you make it more about them and less about you. This is even more important when you are selling.
So, was Ed right? Is literature for losers? Yes, at least at the beginning of a sales meeting.
Next time, grab a blank sheet of paper instead of a brochure and sell more.