What you do, what you are, what’s the difference?

Posted by jasoneconomides

Have you ever gone up to someone, and asked them “So John, what do you do?”, and you get an answer like “I’m an accountant”.

Don’t you think that’s interesting?

The problem with John’s answer here, is that he has just labelled himself, and we all have our own image, preconceived idea or in NLP terms, internal representation, of what an accountant is. You know, a short thin guy with round glasses, an old grey suit that hasn’t been dry cleaned for 12 years…your image of course may be different. But either way, the words “I’m an accountant” is most likely to conjure up the image of a person, rather than the results or service that the person offers.

So think about how to answer that question next time you are asked it. Let’s move back to John. How else could he have answered? Well he could have said, depending on his individual specialisation, something like:

“I work with people to help them decrease their tax obligations and increase the efficiency of the management of their cash flow”. Immediately we get a clear picture of the benefit of what John has to offer.

So whenever you are in a meeting, and your running through your list of previous customers, and describing who you currently work for, make sure you simply describe what your value-add is to each customer, why they initially hired you and how you helped the customers save money, get their new kitchen built, have a great driving experience, sleep better at night etc….

Give examples of how you have done this. Telling stories is a great way to sell your point. Simply making statements or stating facts, is all very interesting, but doesn’t get someone to buy. Maybe you already know the expression :

Stories Sell
Facts Tell

Remember, in the context of a meeting, the irony is that the customer has a problem, which is why they have made the time to speak to you, yet at the same time they will be quite on their guard to reveal their real needs or spending capability – it’s a human pride and defensive mechanism. Being aware of this is particularly important, or easier to demonstrate in a slightly differentselling context.

Namely that of a counsellor or psychiatrist selling their services to a potential ‘patient’ (isn’t that a horrible word to use). Let’s say Mary is a therapist, she will be looking for new patients, or as I prefer, customers.

So, Mary is introduced to someone who has some kind of marital issue going on for them. Mary at this point can do one of two things:

“Hi, I’m Mary and I’m a family therapist and work on marriage and relationship problems. How can I help? (Translation: What’s your problem?)” – This will immediately put the potential customer on the back foot, because as you know, they don’t need therapy! ;-)

or a much softer approach:

“Hi, I’m Mary. I recently met with someone who was facing some issues within their relationship. At first it seemed to them (note: no use of the words “patient, client, customer” etc) that the situation was hopeless, that there was no way of getting out of the downward spiral that the relationship was going. We talked a lot about how the two were communicating, or not communicating, and quickly discovered from both sides that they actually had the same views, goals and ambitions, but were too scared to talk about them. Now they are really happy, and the relationship is blossoming stronger than ever before. If you are feeling low, maybe I could share some of my experience of how to overcome any anxieties you have right now.”

Mary in this case has sold her services, using a story, a real life example, to which her prospective client can relate to.

Human beings love hearing sensational stories, that’s why newspapers sell so well. You’ll never see a newspaper saying “US Economy coasting along very nicely thank you very much” or “Business at IBM is doing generally alright, executives say”. You’ll only see sensationally negative or positive headlines like “10,000 people laid off at Walter Mitty Plc as business is hit by economic downturn” or “10 million people get huge tax break”. The Media sells the story, and they do it exceptionally well. It’s a love hate relationship.

Identifying the customers’ issues, and then outlining examples how you have fixed similar issues in the past, is going to be your priority and will be key to succeeding in closing the sale. Tell stories, and ask them to share their similar stories.

What’s your story?

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