This afternoon, the phone rang, I picked it up, “Hi, this is Dave Brock.”

Clearly, there was a sales person on the line, she said, “May I please speak to Dave?” (You can see this call going south already.)

When I responded it was me, without taking a breath, she launched into a 97 second pitch. I tried to interrupt, but she wouldn’t have any of that. At the end of the pitch, again without taking a breath, she asked, “Can I schedule a meeting and demo?”

My response was, “No.”

Without, a pause, she went for her alternate close. Again, I simply said, “No,” and waited.

I had taken the wind out of her sails. Clearly her script didn’t give her the flexibility to ask me why I was saying no. She wasn’t prepared to explore why I was responding a certain way, as a result she missed an opportunity. In the case of this call, it was something I was very interested in, but she never probed, she never engaged me, she just asked closed ended questions.

Her call plan clearly allowed for only one response, “Yes.” When confronted with a response that didn’t align with what she was trying to do, she wasn’t able to carry on the conversation. As a result, she missed an opportunity.

This call wasn’t unusual. Too often, our questions and scripts limit our ability to hear and engage the customer. We miss huge opportunities to engage and understand our customers when they go “off script.”

In fact very often, we learn far more from a customer that isn’t responding the way we hope they respond. Probing, exploring, engaging them in conversations give us much richer understanding of the things that are truly important to them.

When the customer provides a response we don’t expect we have the opportunity to ask things like:

  • What makes you say that?
  • Perhaps I don’t understand what you are trying to achieve, maybe you can clarify things for me?
  • Why do you have those beliefs or hold that opinion?
  • We’ve seen other customers where this is a huge issue. It would be really interesting to understand what you are doing that makes this a non-issue for you?
  • How are you handling this issue right now?
  • Perhaps you may have misunderstood what I was asking?

…..and on and on…..

The potential to engage them in deeper levels of conversation when they say something unexpected or that is off our script is endless. If we don’t open ourselves to explore, learn, and ask those questions, we miss huge opportunities to better understand and serve our customers.

When your prospects and customers give you an unexpected response, it’s hugely valuable. Leverage it to explore, learn, engage, and discover their real issues. You might be surprised by the outcome.

SOURCEPartners in Excellence
Dave Brock
Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.