By John Pojeta
After a few decades in sales, you collect a treasure trove of stories. You meet unusual prospects. You encounter strange circumstances. And just when you think you have seen it all, you encounter something totally new.
I had this experience recently. I was walking a prospect through what our onboarding process would be like and what he could expect in the first months of working with us. He asked me the typical questions, including the catch-all of “What am I not asking that I should be?” Then he asked me a question I had never heard before.
“All of this sounds great,” he said. “What can we do on our end that would really mess this up?”
I had to pause. No one had ever directly asked me about what they could do on their end to ensure that the new initiative would fail. Typically, we have to proactively chase and educate to get ahead of the usual missteps a client might have, but this prospect was self-aware enough to recognize that he was entering unknown territory. He knew that he didn’t have the answers, and he was humble enough to admit it and ask for help.
‘I Know All’ Mentality
After the conversation, I reflected on how I buy services. Am I smart enough to be able to set my own ego aside in order to embrace a new way of thinking or working? Too often, I realized, I let my own “I know all” mentality get in the way. For many of us, especially experienced professionals, this ego is invisible and sometimes disguises itself as expertise.
When we begin new projects and work with new experts, we can easily make the mistake of assuming how things will work. We assume that a new partner will tell us everything we need to know up front, but that’s usually not how the dynamic will play out.
When things get difficult or uncomfortable, do we keep to the recommended course? For example, when you tell your web designer that you want your home page to say this and to have links to that, you will not get the same response as you would if you asked, “In your experience, what is the best approach for us to take here?”
In other words, even if you engage an industry expert, you might not get their full expertise unless you ask. That’s not to suggest that experts withhold insights, but sometimes new associates are hesitant to overload the relationship and don’t want to come off as preachy or controlling.
Tips For Success
If you bring in someone to grow your business, uncover the full scope of their knowledge by doing the following:
- Give them permission. If you want candid feedback and direction, ask for it directly.
- Be a good collaborator. Sometimes, the candid insights you receive might challenge how you think. Don’t be offended, and don’t punish the expert for opening up to you.
- Ask for examples. Best practices explained in isolation can be helpful but, if you ask the expert to share an example of how a relationship failed or succeeded based on certain choices, you might learn even more.
- Take the advice. There is, of course, room for discussion, but if an appointment setting firm suggests that you adjust your sales process to make first meetings more successful, you should probably take that suggestion seriously, even if you don’t understand it right away.
- Continue the dialogue. The insights an expert shares with you are the product of past conversations with other clients and partners. As you learn more about your work together, continue to talk with the expert about what you are seeing. You might uncover a new insight together.
- Understand what you are truly committing to. Share the parts you think are going to be difficult for you or your team, and address potential roadblocks and concession points early.
In your work and your life, you are likely to be surrounded by people who have mountains of knowledge to share. Sometimes, all you need to do is open the door by asking to hear about it, and that will put you far ahead of everyone else – because most people simply won’t ask.
John Pojeta is the vice president of business development at The PT Services Group. He previously owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years. John may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.
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