The Most Important Question We Must Ask Our Customers (and Ourselves)
Do you know many kids who dream of a career in sales? Maybe you do, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The idea never crossed my mind. Which may explain why I did not go into sales. But it would have been unquestionably rude if I didn’t open the door when Sales finally came knocking with a few words of wisdom about learning to ask the right questions and listening. Lessons we can all learn from.
As a marketer, I know that there will be crossover and collaboration with my colleagues working on deals with other organizations. As a company, we want to make sure people in need of our services can find and work with us. In order to do my job, I have to ask myself the same questions that you would hopefully hear in a sales call. And questions about challenges are challenging. For me, the change in perspective came through a Flannery Sales Systems workshop where a wee little question had a colossal effect on how I approach my marketing work. It was a paradigm shifter:
What are you looking to achieve?
It all starts here – the salesperson looking to see what a potential client identifies as a need and pinpointing a concrete business objective. You would be surprised at how often people are focused on a single puzzle piece without seeing the whole picture. Salespeople, on the other hand, not only map how products or services fill gaps but also shine a light on gaps the client may have completely missed. In a sense, the salesperson is the link between prospects identifying what they really need and actually getting it. It would not be ridiculous to say that the word “salesperson” doesn’t cover the work salespeople do, work that goes beyond “selling” and encompasses listening, understanding, and truly connecting the dots.
The paradigm-shifting question above moves us away from voraciously closing deals and towards a hunger of truly understanding someone’s business challenges. Closing a deal prematurely and neglecting to understand a client’s business objective is a gateway for future misunderstandings. Losing a client down the line may not be the result of bad account management but rather the incomplete identification of what your client was looking to achieve in the beginning. Which is why I prefer “matchmaker” to “salesperson.”
What are you looking to achieve? I repeat the question to myself like a mantra in both business conversations and outside of work. You cannot fill a gap without knowing anything about it or why it was there in the first place. When your product is a service like market research, consulting, or custom workshops, as is the case for us at Nimdzi, it becomes more critical that early conversations have truly identified a concrete need the potential client has. I know my colleagues make it a priority before even mentioning what we can offer. And of course, the paradigm-shifter is only a part of the conversation. Flannery covered much more than asking an opening question and listening for concrete needs. Our team walked away calibrated and equipped with a framework that helps us serve our clients.
If you’re a marketing manager not in direct sales, you could greatly benefit from understanding the sales process. This is because it will equip you with a new acuteness for identifying needs, listening for challenges, and orienting yourself. What are you looking to achieve?
Nika Allahverdi is the Global Marketing and Engagement Manager at Nimdzi Insights, an international market research and consulting firm. She drives the marketing efforts at Nimdzi and works with various departments to conceptualize campaigns and strategize to implement them. She is also Nimdzi’s marketing consultant for localization business professionals.