I was having breakfast with a client last Friday, Spike Count of the Baxa Company, in Denver right before a training program I was delivering, and we were talking about the importance of asking questions and listening. He told me that a few years ago he was working for a company selling an IT solution and that while dealing with the Director of IT, he was suddenly in front of the new CFO and had to think fast! Here is what he did.
He said that while he was leaving a meeting with the Director, he asked him how he could get in front of the new CFO (knowing that the CFO was the ultimate decision maker). Just as he asked that question, an executive was walking down the hall toward them. The Director said, "That's the new CFO right there. Let me introduce you to him."
Spike was introduced to the CFO and he asked him, "I'd love to spend a few minutes with you and wondered when we could get some time on your calendar to do that?" To his surprise, the CFO said, "I have about 10 minutes right now, come on into my office."
Spike was taken by surprise but followed the CFO into this office, sat down across the desk and the CFO said, "So, what's on your mind?" Spike's mind went blank and he just sat there for a moment. He hadn't expected to be here at this time and found himself unprepared!
Luckily that didn't last too long and before he knew it Spike said,
"I have just two questions for you. First, when a client of yours leaves you and buys from someone else, what is the main reason for that? And second, what is the main reason a new client goes with you rather than your competition?"After that he opened up his notebook, pen in hand, and waited.
And waited. And waited...
After nearly 5 full minutes (a nerve racking 5 minutes to be sure), the CFO finally began to speak. "That's a great question and I'm going to have to think carefully about that. In fact, no one has ever asked me that before..."
The CFO then went on to give his thoughts about this, and, after they were done, he thanked Spike and promised to follow up with more information - which he did. After a few weeks, the CFO then followed up again and bought from Spike and his company.
He said of the interaction: "The two questions you asked me were the best two questions I've ever been asked. They forced me to evaluate the only two things that really mattered - what mattered most to our clients."Spike was obviously pleased with how this turned out, but he told me that the real lesson he learned from the interaction is just how long some prospects take to think about questions they are asked. He told me, "Since I was there when I asked the question, I could see he was carefully thinking about my questions. Since I could see that, I didn't interrupt him - instead I just shut up and let him think.
"This situation revealed the real challenge we face as inside sales reps.