Sales call

Preparing For Your Next Sales Call Can Save Your Marriage!

What? How is preparing for a sales call anything like preparing for marriage?  

For nearly 20 years, my wife and I have been a lead couple for Pre-Cana, the Catholic Church’s marriage preparation program. We attended a full weekend of preparation prior to our own wedding more than 25 years ago, as well as a marriage encounter weekend around the time the 7-year slump was approaching. We’re not just preaching what we believe, we were in the trenches too, just like the young couples we advise.  

Certain things have become crystal clear to me and my wife throughout this process: Marriages with up-front fortification are succeeding at a much higher rate (like 50% higher), and that success really comes down to great communication and preparation.

Is selling any different?  Not at all. Building a sales relationship is like building a good marriage.

Of course, there are obvious differences in the topics that couples discuss versus those that a client and sales professional will review. But two common threads bind them: the necessity for good, honest communication about where they’ve been, and a plan for getting to where they both want to go. In other words, a roadmap.

Truth 1: We must first learn to see the world from the client’s point of view.

When our Pre-Cana couples are allowed to discuss, in a secure and safe setting, their background, where they come from, and their hopes and dreams, they are able to confront the tough topics that need to be addressed. In class, the couples often discover things about each other they didn’t anticipate. And yes, we’ve seen couples not make it to the altar. However, it is far better to come to that realization before the dress, the party, and the event photographer comes in to distract the couple from the reality of saying “I do.”  The same goes for your sales process — you want to first root out the things that make your conversations difficult.

Then, and only then, can we as salespeople help our clients understand our views. If we want to sell them something, we must first understand what they need, want, or desire. Do they have a problem and is it worth solving?

For example, sometimes my wife simply wants to talk.  She doesn’t want me to solve anything, she just wants to be heard. One great scene from the movie “White Men Can’t Jump” shows Gloria saying to Billy, “I don’t want you to get me a glass of water, I want you to empathize with my thirst.”  We need to learn not only how to listen, but how to actually understand where the other person is coming from. As humans, we are usually unreceptive to an opposing point of view, until we feel our own position is heard, understood, and validated.  

The same goes for your client.  People, both in business and in personal relationships, resist pressure.  So to alleviate the pressure, we first drop the rope® and then take the trip® to see the situation from their personal Point of View.  Once they feel understood, they will be more receptive to influence or persuasion.

Truth 2: Then we can build a roadmap to a mutual destination.

Those couples that do complete the Pre-Cana course come to a necessary and mutual understanding of where each person is coming from, but more importantly, where they want to go. They recognize that there are going to be problems down the road, but they anticipate those conversations by laying the groundwork. These couples build a roadmap together. For example, they may discuss their future children – if they want any, how many, will they put the children in daycare or will one of the parents stay home? These are critical decisions that should have some philosophical alignment.  

Your clients will also want to know “where this relationship is going.” When the customer doesn’t know what is happening or where you are leading them, they will always assume a negative. Therefore, it’s important to communicate your intent to understand their business problems and then drop the rope®. State that we may have a solution which will remove pressure and explain to your client that you simply want to explore, for a few minutes, if there is something we can help them do better.  If they understand the “roadmap,” they are much more likely to join you for the trip.

At the end of the day, it’s all about your approach.

I have no doubt that my wife and I have helped many young couples establish these good habits of communication and preparation early in their relationships, contributing to the success and strength of their marriage in the long run. So the next time you head into a first meeting — or maybe into a difficult meeting with a relationship you’ve had for a while — ask yourself this: Am I treating this relationship like a marriage that has to stand the test of time?  Am I listening? Am I preparing us both for mutual success? The Pre-Cana approach that gets our couples to the altar is the same one that can make your process the one that actually sticks with clients.

1 Comment

  1. Chris White on January 29, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    I’m reminded of many of the sales engineers that I work with that are instinctively uncomfortable with sales. They don’t like to think of themselves as ‘salesman’ or sales people. I remind them to focus on their customers needs and objectives. “When you’re solving problems, it really isn’t selling.” This is similar to what you’re saying Scott. By dropping the rope and sincerely focusing on our customers’ challenges and desires, we’re setting both them and ourselves up for success.

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