I’m certainly not the first person to say, “pay attention!” because the information you need is already all around you. But despite the frequent reminders, examples where this advice is ignored are too numerous to ignore.
I was in my office last week, doing some paperwork, when my phone rang. The voice identified itself as calling from a “home security company”. The man asked how I was doing, and I answered, my sense of humor demanding expression, “I would be fine except that I just don’t feel that my home is secure.”
What I had just done, as most of you will recognize, is utilize his exact pitch, used the limited information he’d provided about his own value proposition, to qualify him uniquely to solve my problem.
From a Sales perspective, I told the salesperson what my pain was, well before being explicitly asked for it. So to that sales professional, I should have been an easy prospect, making it clear that I had the unique pain that he could alleviate, that he offered the very product I required.
But what happened?
He paused long enough for me to wonder whether we’d gotten disconnected. He then broke the silence with, “Oh, gosh, I’m really sorry to hear that…” He sounded very sympathetic and even uncomfortable, and we hung up. I had just informed him that I was his ideal prospect. In all honesty, I wasn’t, and my home is in fact quite secure. Though he didn’t know that, and had plenty of opportunity to help me solve my perceived problem. I’m not encouraging people to be annoying in their telesales. If a potential customer isn’t interested in speaking with you, you don’t have a right to annoy them. But in this case, I gave him tacit permission to proceed, even matching my “pain” to his solution for him. However instead of identifying the opportunity for us both, he offered sympathy and ended our communication.
I say “for us both” because ostensibly, we both had something to gain by our working together. He has a product or service he needs to sell, and I identified myself as someone whose problem that would solve. If I bought, presumably, both our problems would be solved.
We have opportunities like this all the time, and I frequently spot this as I observe conversations. One person identifies a need in himself and shares it. Now sometimes we talk with others about our problems just to talk, to find a sympathetic ear, to explore our problem. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. Though sometimes when we talk, we’re hoping the other person may offer some useful advice, a recommendation. So few human experiences are truly unique. As the saying goes, “there’s nothing new under the sun”, therefore if Person A shares a challenge with Person B, there’s a good chance that either Person B has already faced the same challenge, and has a story to share, experience to offer, OR Person C, D, or E, good friends or family members to Person B, have. Either way, the conversation can be viewed as one person reaching out to another, asking for solutions, advice, support, or encouragement. The other person, most likely, has something to offer – either from their own direct experience or indirect – such as having read about it in a book, a website, hearing it from a close friend, etc.
Structurally, the two scenarios, the person seeking help, and the sales scenario I encountered, are nearly identical. So what if the other person, Person B, were as unwilling or dense as the salesperson who called me? Person A and I would continue our search for answers, for a “hit”, and the initial attempt would have been a “miss”.
By the way, I mention the “structure” above because in NLP, we seek to understand the surface structure and deep structure of a communication – structure can be similarly applied to situations, enabling us to quickly ascertain the appropriate strategy. A good example is that you may never have gotten into a Ferrari. You have, however, gotten into any number of cars in your lifetime. You spot the door handle, note the crevice in the body of the car that defines the door, and you match the structure of the Ferrari’s door to that of other cars. You correctly open the door, climb in, and pull the door shut behind you with no difficulty. Of course, if it’s a Lamborghini with doors that pull out then swing up, it may require a little adjustment!
Similarly, as we learn to identify the structure when we encounter a new situation, we can map it to similar structures with which we do have experience and have at least a starting point. (I offer all this because I’m often surprised by email I receive pointing out how two such scenarios are not the same.)
If I apply the structure to the other person’s perspective, the salesperson who called me would seem to be the kind of person who, when asked for assistance or advice, would just shrug and say, “Uh, I dunno. Never had that happen before, myself.” As he would learn to think more structurally, he might evolve to a point where he may say, “Uh, I dunno, I never myself had that happen, but I read in a book once that…” or “…my friend John went through the same thing last year. He found that ___ helped him get through it.” Of course, bringing that line of thinking back into focus, where he and I met on a call and he had an opportunity to sell me something, he could have said, “Uh, gee, I’m sorry you’re dealing with an insecure home…but you know, I’ve got this service I’m selling that secures your home, so it may be a lucky thing for us both that I called. Let me tell you more about it.” Or if he really gets good, he would have added “Instead of letting me tell you more about my service, why don’t you tell me more about how you want your home to be secure?”
Opportunities are often tw0- or more-sided. Not always, of course, but often, there are multiple winners. You sell your product, making your boss and your bank account happy, but I solve my problem just by making a simple purchase. So it’s actually selfish to withhold the solution if you suspect you have it. Though you won’t even reach that point until you pay close attention to what’s happening around you. Opportunity is knocking. All the time.
Reach for the door handle, remember how to open the door to it, and let it in!