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It Starts With the Customer

The experience is one that gets replayed over and over in homes, offices, and anywhere your cell phone is turned on.  You are busy focused on one task or another and the ring of your phone interrupts your train of thought.  In fact, as I am writing this article, a series of calls came in from different people at a company I recognized from a previous exposure. I had met a representative of the company at an industry conference and had spent about 3 minutes waiting in line for coffee.  I vaguely recalled that the person represented either a mailing list of business executives or an internet search of social networks for business leaders; I am not completely sure whether it is one, the other, or both.  In any case, the idea of increasing my list of prospects and potential customers is always of interest.  So, while I was busy doing all the tasks that were on my “To-Do List,” I recognized that it would be worthwhile to at least check out the service/product before just dismissing it without a review.  So, while mildly annoyed at the interruption, the caller had accomplished what she was seeking – a person who was curious about what she was selling and someone who had a need for it.  However, the decision to proceed would be contingent on further investigation, discovery, and analysis.  I was going to require more than just this phone call to decide to purchase.

The Start of the Call(s)

The call began poorly.  As I started with the usual greeting I use for business calls, the other person on the line (an automated voice?) said, “please hold the line for our next sales person.”  I hung up.  I don’t see the need to wait for a person who called me to join the call.  Perhaps a minute later the phone rang again.  This time, there was a person who demanded to talk to the person responsible for sales.  Not asking for a particular person.  Not even suggesting that he had something that had helped others and that might be of interest to me to accomplish something (generate leads, target prospects, grow revenue, reduce sales cycle time, etc.).  So, I told him he had the wrong number and hung up.  When starting the phone call with “I need to talk to….” I immediately thought to myself that he didn’t NEED anything.  The customer is the one with the need.  I don’t owe him anything.  For me to pay attention, he has to offer something that I value.  If his start to the call was to demand to talk to someone and he hadn’t taken the time to even find out who that may be in the company, I didn’t see a need to continue the call.

Finally, the person I had met previously called and after introducing herself, she laughingly commented how hard it is to reach me.  I swallowed back what I wanted to say, and continued the conversation.  I exchanged pleasantries and we compared notes on the conference experience.

The Call

The customer is the reason for the call, stop frustrating them with your needs.

So, after the few moments of walking down memory lane with the woman I had met at the conference, she tried to transition the call to her purpose for calling.  She asked, “So, David – what can I help you with today?”  Now, remember, she called me.  So, I responded – “why don’t you tell me what you can do?”  I really didn’t know what she could provide for me and I certainly did not have any insight into how she might be able to assist me or my company.  In essence, she had called me and was saying, “You don’t know me, my product, or my experience – do you want to buy from me?”

Even when I tried to explore what she had to offer and tried to connect her offering to my business, she could only talk about products she sells – but not how it would help me accomplish my goals.  She had something in her pocket or briefcase and could not seem to give me a reason to buy from her OTHER than she wanted to make a sale.  Growing impatient with this approach that was not going anywhere; and wanting to return to the “To Do List” I had originally been working on when the phone rang, I asked the person to put some information in the mail and that I would review it and get back in touch if there was interest.

What I received back in response was an invitation to participate in a webinar the company conducts periodically.  So, what I now understood is that since she had a prospect who had an interest, but not a clear understanding of how to use the products, she would invite me to attend another SELLING EVENT – even though I was telling her I have interest and was ready to be sold right then and there.  Of course, she then warmly invited me to call her with any questions (to which I wondered, why would I do that given how this call had gone).

 The Autopsy

The salesperson failed.  Miserably.  Made me do all the heavy lifting and put up obstacles to allowing me to progress through the stages of buying (NOT the phases of selling).  While the conversation was reasonably pleasant, and we did share some memories of the conference we had mutually attended; the call ended without any progress toward my resolving my need, the sale occurring, or the seller securing a new customer.  All that was needed was to realign the focus of the call away from the seller and on to me, the customer. 


David Zahn