My favorite Italian restaurant, a new SIM card, and active listening

I have my favorite Italian restaurant.

It’s walking distance from my apartment. The rigatoni Napoli never disappoints. Italian food for the soul. I don’t go as often since I discovered the joys of cooking at home, but when I did, back in the day, I would pull out my phone and scan Google News while I waited.

Then suddenly, I stopped getting reception in the restaurant. This was a problem. How could I enjoy my favorite plate of pasta without being able to check my phone.

I went to my phone provider, who happened to be across the street from the restaurant, to get things settled. I was told by the seemingly knowledgeable salesperson that my phone plan was outdated, and I was “upgraded” to a new, slightly more expensive plan. He explained that this was a simple revamping of the system and would be required by everyone soon anyway.

It was a total snow job and I should have known better. But I was in a hurry, and I figured I didn’t have a choice.

Several months later, when I went into another store of the same carrier, I learned that there was nothing wrong with my plan, and that all I needed was a new SIM card. The salesperson at this store was annoyed because he had already heard this same story and recognized his colleague’s actions as fraudulent.

Why am I rehashing my embarrassing lack of scrutiny?

Because this is exactly why your prospects don’t trust you. We’ve all been burned, and we don’t want to get burned again.

In the back of our minds, when we pick up the call, we subliminally perceive the caller (the SDR, in this case), as being somehow deceitful. We politely decline without listening, we uncomfortably create excuses to get off the phone (“Oh, I just spilled coffee all over myself.” ⬅ I’ve actually heard this one) and do whatever we can to get out of the awkward situation of “being sold to.” Our prospects can smell what Josh Braun calls our “commission breath” over the phone.

You’ve perhaps heard this before, but in bears repeating. The way to change this awkwardness is to take the focus off YOU and shift it to the other person. Make it about THEM. When we genuinely show interest in the other person, seek to truly understand their situation, we become a springboard for their thoughts. And this is a good thing.

Ron Willingham says it best in his book, ‘Integrity Selling for the 21st Century’:

“The art of persuasion is paradoxical.  The more we attempt to persuade people, the more they tend to resist us.  But the more we attempt to understand them and create value for them, the more they tend to persuade themselves.” 

Be curious. Listen actively. Questions to ask include:

What’s working and what’s not working?

If it doesn’t work, what happens?

Who gets affected by it?

If you do nothing, what will happen?

Andy Whyte (MEDDICCThe Ultimate Guide to Staying One Step Ahead in the Complex Sale) suggests keeping your questions open-ended using the TED acronym:

  • “Could you please Tell me about it…
  • Can you please Explain to me…
  • Would you please Describe how…

Do you ask to truly understand? Doing so may unearth pains that outweigh the ones you assumed the prospect already had.


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