There was a speech, maybe one of my all time favorites, written by Roger Rosenblatt to his son upon graduation in Time Magazine June, 1997. Rosenblatt, a journalist, novelist, playwright and professor wrote, “Do not mistake knowledge for learning. Real learning comes from being out of things, from taking the information you acquire and carting it off to a state of reverie.” He goes on to quote Shelley, “We must learn to imagine what we know.” What do I think he meant? Don’t take it all at face value. Don’t fall in line with what others deem as tried and true. DON’T MISTAKE KNOWLEDGE FOR LEARNING. It’s brilliant and quite simple:
Instead of, “Does your company do promotions?” How about, “Are you open to creative promotions that will help you drive business?”
Instead of, “Do you do outreach in your community?” How about, “Do you belong to the Chamber, the local Rotary, or professional group? Are you interested in partnering with us on a project with them? Attending lunch as our guest?”
Instead of, “What is your business and how how much in total sales did your company gross last year?” How about what are your objectives outside of sales? Philanthropy…community?
What I try to do with my sales staff is get them to think differently and ask “outside the box questions.”. Get the person you are talking to, to think, to open up, ask questions to explore their business. The more you ask about them, the more you will know about them and the more they will trust you.
Going back to what Rosenblat says, “Don’t mistake knowledge for learning.” In this day of IPads, Iphones laptops and wifi there is no excuse for not having knowledge of the person you are meeting with. You can easily know their gross sales, their new products and their history. What I want my sales people to do is LEARN about the person and their company. Ask the questions that get them to talk about their core values or ask the question that gets them to show their passion for their company. When you get to this level you are now gaining true deep-seated knowledge, and in our business the more you learn the more power you have. With this knowledge now you can make the perfect presentation and you are limiting their ability to say no.
So ask the questions, go in with knowledge, but your main objective is to come out LEARNING.