Question: How do you know someone went to Harvard? Answer: They will tell you.
It’s funny, and it’s usually true.
After all, it’s hard to keep a good thing to yourself… especially when the good thing is as interesting and impressive as a Harvard education.
OK – no Harvard education? Maybe you play the piano, or speak five languages, or travel to Ibiza every summer.
Doesn’t your prospect need to know these things?
No. They don’t.
They absolutely do not need to know these things — especially not in the early stages of the sales process. Don’t worry, I’ll unpack this.
Do This Instead
If you want to level-up your sales game starting now, stop seeking to be interesting, and instead seek to be interested.
Pick up the phone and make 100 calls today. And when you do, ask questions. Lots of questions. And listen. Show that you’re genuinely interested in helping your prospect.
Think of it this way. If you’re stuck and have to cut a rope to survive, do you really care what the knife looks like? No. You just want it to be sharp, right?
In the same way, your prospect has a problem that requires a solution. They just need that proverbial sharp knife. Do they care about your silver-tongued phrases and all the interesting things about you? Not really. Not at this stage anyway. In fact, all that interesting stuff just becomes a distraction and can even kill the deal!
Sure, you need to build rapport. And yes, you can swap stories as the relationship builds. But you have to stop putting yourself in the spotlight right out of the gates. You’re not the star of the show. Your prospect is.
The more you try to make yourself seem interesting… the more you lose their interest.
The Real Problem With Being Interesting
People really only care about themselves. There it is. That’s the big secret. They want to talk about themselves and their dreams and desires, not yours.
More importantly, there’s a story going on during the sales process. There’s a protagonist (your prospect), an antagonist or bad guy (their pain point/problem), and a guide that helps them beat the bad guy.
Who’s the guide? You guessed it, it’s YOU.
You play a key role in this story, but it’s a supporting role. You’re Not the hero. You are there simply to guide the hero (your prospect) to fulfilling their desire of beating the antagonist and getting everything they ever dreamed of getting in life.
Just to help you wrap your head around the “guide” role in sales, here are some examples of guides from popular movies:
While these characters are layered and interesting, their main job is to help their prospects overcome the resistance and achieve their ultimate goals. They show up, show genuine interest, build trust and rapport with their “prospects”, and guide them to a better place.
Got it? Good.
This is the very essence of B2B sales. And if more SDRs, AEs, and sales leaders knew this timeless wisdom — their sales numbers would reflect it (and shoot through the roof!).
OK – next we’ll cover what this looks like on the day-to-day.
How to Guide Your Prospects
It’s not difficult to guide your prospects, just follow this five-step framework.
Do your Research
Didn’t Morpheus know everything about Neo before he showed up on the scene? Absolutely. Now you, too, must research your prospect and be able to articulate what they’re after in life (or at least in their career). Know about their industry, their company, their role, and their challenges. Once you have that, drill down a bit further to learn about their interests, hobbies, religious or political affiliations, etc. You can find most of this intel on LinkedIn in a matter of five minutes.
Ask Poignant Questions
Remember, we’re seeking to be interested, not interesting. And the best way to show interest is to simply ask questions. You don’t have to ask your prospect such profound questions as “Red pill or blue pill?” But you do have to get your prospect talking. Ask questions about their current situation, their dream situation, and how to bridge that gap.
Listen Actively, with Empathy
There’s listening. And then there’s listening. You must learn to power-down your gift-of-gab and simply listen to your prospect speak. Get comfortable with a little awkward silence. Don’t worry, your prospect will fill those gaps by telling you more about how you can help them (it’s a beautiful thing). And when you listen, listen with empathy and understanding. Really try to relate to their situation or perspective as if you were in their shoes. Remember, if you’re trying to be interesting, you aren’t listening!
Let Your Story Unfold Naturally
I get it — you are interesting. You have unique interests and accomplishments that the world needs to know about. And maybe your prospect would benefit with this knowledge (i.e. for authority-building and trust-building purposes). Great. Now, just know that you become much more interesting when this information comes out naturally over time rather than forcing it into the conversation. Ideally, it would be “asked” out of you. That’s when any piece of impressive information becomes the most powerful.
If you’re in sales, you’re probably a great talker/communicator. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not always. It can work to your detriment if you don’t show genuine interest early on in the sales process. As mentioned, many salespeople tend to dominate the conversation and cast themselves in the spotlight (look how interesting I am!). Trust me, that’s the fastest way to lose a deal.
Just show up and show that you care. Show that you’re a helpful guide and willing to help them transform. Be authentic, be yourself, and listen to gain understanding. I’ll say it one last time, seek to be interested, not interesting. This is one of the best-kept secrets of sales.
Until next time…