Salespeople are famous for loving to talk, but many customers are the same way! What do you do when your customer is talking your ear off about anything and everything?
Customers, like everyone else, love to talk about themselves, and I am a captive audience. I have learned that I need to build time into my sales meetings for conversations that are off-topic. There are times however, when a customer goes on and on about a topic and I need to change the course of the conversation to get us back to the subject at hand.
Here is an example of a time when I did just that: I was meeting with an electrical distributor in the Midwest and he was talking to me about his love of fishing. I was intrigued about the type of fish he was catching, so I asked him a few questions. Unfortunately, he saw this as an invitation to tell me EVERYTHING he knew about fishing. After twenty minutes of “fish talk” I knew it was time to change the subject or we would never get to a discussion of my company’s services. So, I leveraged the topic at hand and compared it to a business situation. I said to him, “Business in this current environment must be a lot like fishing, you are always on the look out for a new place to drop your line. When it comes to landing new business opportunities, what do you see as the markets you need to go after, and which ones do you avoid?” This question shifted the focus of the conversation back to business. My customer really opened up to me about the challenges he was facing breaking into new markets, as well as the successes he had experienced in the previous quarter. We were then able to modify his contract and provide him with services that were more suited to his current needs.
Another time when this tactic comes in handy is when a customer is discussing something that you do not know much about. I come across a lot of customers who want to talk to me about sports. I have tried reading the sports section to stay current, but it is just not a topic that resonates with me. When customers broach the topic of sports, I listen for a bit and then redirect them to business. If they are bemoaning a loss, I will say, “Yes, it seems like the team is having a hard time this year. I bet you have some hard days like that with your customers. Just when you think things are going well, a customer throws you a curveball. How do you handle that type of situation?” On the other hand, if my customer is celebrating a win by his/her team, I will say, “There is nothing like the feeling of winning! Can you tell me some of the potential wins you are trying to score in your business, and how you are progressing so far this year?”