A couple years ago my father-in-law, Steve, and I played a round of golf, and were paired with a couple that we didn’t know. His name was Robert and her name Donna. As Donna worked her way through the fairway and approached the green, she was graceful and calm – methodically hitting the ball with the right amount of touch until she was positioned nicely on the green. Fairway shots, bunker shots, chip shots – she was in control. However, she was a different animal from the tee.

Donna would approach the tee box like Al Hrabosky, the Mad Hungarian, used to approach the pitching mound in the 1970s. Her swing off the tee was violent, and the results were awful. On every hole, Robert would remind her: “don’t try to kill it”. She knew the answer, but she tried to kill the ball on every single tee shot.

How many times have you heard the phrase “Sales people should listen a whole lot more than they speak.”? Millions of times is probably not an exaggeration. How many sales calls have you been on where the sales person doesn’t shut up? Millions of times?

This is hard. No matter how many times Donna reminds herself not to swing hard on the tee, she can’t help herself. It’s the same with most salespeople. They’re competitive and their nature is to talk. No matter how many times they’re told that they have two ears and only one mouth for a reason, they still jabber on throughout the sales meetings.

So, what can we do?

Create a list of items that must be discovered in every sales meeting. I’m not talking about a list of qualification questions. I mean a list of answers – decision-making process, factors leading to decision, current access control system, SLA expiration, etc. Turn yourself into a detective by looking for clues and digging for information. Again, don’t simply ask questions. Create a list of things to uncover, and then find the information in your own unique way.

Here’s why it works: Telling yourself what you need to stop doing hardly ever works with strong personalities. However, once you give yourself a mission, you’ll do it. You’ll be so focused on finding the information that you’ll forget about dumping features on the customer. I think Robert needs to stop telling Donna “don’t try to kill it”, and start telling her “hit the ball less than 100 yards”.

Try it. Whether you try it for yourself or coach your team with this idea, try it.

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