A lot of people don’t know what they want, what their goals and aspirations are or what they are capable of.
Because people don’t have a good understanding of who they are and what they want, offering them bromides about “being all they can be,” or “grabbing life by the horns,” or “seizing the day,” doesn’t do them much good.
After all, how can they be all they can be if they don’t actually know what they can do and don’t know what they want?
If you ask people what they want out of life, you’ll probably get a pat response. Their answer might be based on finances (“I want to be rich”), based on fantasy (“I want to be a rock star”), or based on ephemeral platitudes (“I want peace”).
Financial service companies want to know their clients’ aspirations so they can sell products and services designed to help people reach their goals.
Insurance agents want to know their customers legacy goals so they can sell products and services designed to provide safety and security.
And religious institutions want to know their congregants’ spiritual goals so they can sell products and services designed to help their parishioners both today and after death.
The key word in all of these situations is “sell.”
But “sell” doesn’t necessarily mean “exchange for money.” The word “Sell” is often a synonym for “convince.”
Spending time with these types of potential clients makes one thing very clear: In order to provide them with the best service, it’s necessary for a sales professional to know more – and share more – than just the benefits of their products or services.
Often selling your customer your products or services is not actually about selling at all.
Instead, it’s about helping them tell their story, express their concerns or figure out what matters to them. Once the two of you understand that, you can make suggestions and offer solutions to help them achieve what they want.
Oprah Winfrey was once asked to what she credited her success.
“I validate and I empathize…” she answered.
Years ago, I worked as a waiter in a fine restaurant called the Grand Café.
One lunchtime I was serving a woman who wasn’t happy with anything. Her water was warm. Her food was cold. The A/C was blowing directly on her. The table was rocking. I brought the salad too slowly. I brought the entrée too quickly.
Finally, she insisted I get the manager. When I found him, the manager asked me what went wrong.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I don’t think I’ve done anything to make her so mad. But no matter what I do, she’s not happy.”
The manager walked up to the table and introduced himself.
“Good afternoon Ma’am. I’m Bernard Fish. How can I help you?”
That was all the invitation she needed. She answered him with a five-minute diatribe of everything that was wrong with the service. And the food. And me.
Mr. Fish watched and listened, nodding appropriately. Finally, the angry patron just ran out of steam.
Mr. Fish waited an agonizingly long moment before saying quietly: “I heard everything you said. And I can fix it for you. But I think there’s something else bothering you. What’s really wrong?”
The patron was so mad she couldn’t speak. Then, like the sudden passing of a raging thunderstorm, her face softened. She stared blankly at Mr. Fish before erupting into tears.
“My husband left me last week and I don’t know what to do.”
Her head collapsed on her arms.
Mr. Fish turned to me. “Grab a couple cappuccinos and a slice of cheesecake.”
“And bring two forks” he yelled after me.
Mr. Fish sat at the table and listened. When we cleaned up the lunch mess they were still talking. When the chairs were piled on the tables and the carpet was being vacuumed, they were still talking.
When they got up, the formerly upset customer came over and apologized. She hugged me and handed me a $100 tip.
Of course, the water wasn’t too warm. The food wasn’t too cold. The A/C wasn’t blowing directly on her. And the food came out when it was supposed to come out. None of that mattered because she wasn’t happy.
Most therapists will tell you the concern their patients first present is usually the symptom, not the problem. Often this is because they don’t know what they really want.
But you can find real success if you can help them figure out their desire.
Even if your customer doesn’t know what it is.