My first lesson in business development came in 1977 in Flushing, Queens. I’d just graduated from college and began working for Met Life. I was assigned to a sales manager who changed my life in days. He could terrorize or motivate in seconds, make me scream with laughter or scream with rage almost at will. Yet what he actually instilled in me was his thirty years of life experiences all in one year.
We fought like crazy but most of what I teach today came from our real world selling situations and his deep understanding of people and how to reach them. From that, I determined that when working with clients, it’s important that you allow the war first before you get to the peace.
Understand the Obstacles
What he meant was understanding ALL the obstacles you’ll face to close a client as soon as you can. He instilled in me the art of listening and calmly determining the barriers to close in a relational climate. He further demanded I uncover these within minutes of each meeting.
For example, listed below are a series of questions you can ask to find out what war you’ll need to resolve:
- What‘s mission critical to you and your business going into the new year?
- What challenges/headwinds will there be that can slow down this process?
- What’s been working with your current provider/consultant?
- What would you strengthen if you could?
- What’s your perception of our organization?
- How do you and your team like to collaborate with firms like mine?
Establish Empathy and Urgency
What is most mission critical is establishing a climate of empathy and urgency. These two behaviors are not necessarily immediate bedfellows. The empathy must come first. It must be genuine. The urgency comes from staying with the challenges your client shares long enough for them to accept them and declare their desire to get rid of them…pronto! As I’ve written…you have to stay in the pain.
What war is your client fighting? How are you helping? – sg