Jill Konrath


Jill's Jottings: Fresh Sales Strategies 

Get More Free Sales Resources

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Never Tell Your Client What They Need Before They Tell It To You


Charles H. Green, author of Trust-Based Selling and The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, shares a story about how his boss taught him a big lesson on engaging prospects and creating value without "pitching" your product or service. 


I was young. I went on a sales call with a senior partner to a regional beer company in an old, rust belt manufacturing town. Sales were down, margins were low, and the beer had an undeniably downscale image. 

The owner told us about his proud third generation German family heritage and the copper tanks the beer was brewed in. I was thinking to myself, "Who cares! This is a marketing problem!"  

But my senior partner seemed rapt at the owner's tales of brewing prowess. The conversation meandered, and my boss asked, "Say, where does the water to brew your beer come from?"  

"At last," I thought, "we can pursue some kind of 'land of sparkling clear-blue waters' kind of image campaign. Finally we're talking something important."

"Oh, it's city water," the owner replied. Blecch, I thought; that's completely unappetizing. 

"Really," said my boss. "And where does your city get its water from?" 

"Why, from the mountain range up north," the client said. "Say – do you think we might be able to use that? I mean, like in our ad campaigns, you know – made from clear mountain water, that kind of thing?"

My boss leaned in excitedly to the owner: "You know, I think you might have something there.  Let's kick that around a bit."  We left with the sale in hand, and an excited client.

I asked my boss, "You knew that answer already; why'd you lead him on like that?"

"I didn't 'lead him on,'" my boss said. "We all like our own ideas the best. I just helped him find his own idea. He's bound to like his idea more than mine. And what does it cost me to let him have it?"

Your Turn? Share your Never-Ever Story in the comments section of my blog. boy froginmouth

Jill KonrathJill Konrath is an internationally recognized sales strategist. As author of two bestselling books, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, she's a frequent speaker at sales meetings and conferences. For more fresh ideas, download her free Prospecting Toolkit.



Our ability to communicate with each other (not sell at each other) is the hallmark of humanity. Earning the type of conversation you described in your blog post inspires me. And the customer knows how disarmed and charmed you are with the exchange, as well. It's honest stuff.  
I carry around a pair of safety glasses with me when I work with manufacturers, hoping to be invited to tour the plant. I recall having a conversation in a foundry (cavernous, dark, dirty, noisy) with several owners and the general manager about how they all met each other and one thing had led to another. They apologized for the setting of the conversation. I reveled in the collaboration. Foundry workers joined in the conversation. And yes, once in the quiet of the conference room, I landed a consulting contract for five of their divisions.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 15, 2012 8:46 AM by Babette Ten Haken
Several years ago, I knew it was time to try and get a new yearly contract for products I was selling to a customer on an OEM basis (they used our product in theirs). Before going I realized some competition had surfaced so thought I best get in there quickly to negotiate a deal. I met with the plant manager and negotiated a price. And asked for the order. He said well I need that in writing. I asked if he had a work station I could type up a quote on and he said he had. I still was wearing my coat and sweating profusely but sat down and typed up the quote and gave it to the manager. 3 times he left the office to get his staff to approve my quote. Finally, he came back to the office and gave me the order in writing. I realized at that point that if I had not taken the initiative to push him and type the quote myself, I could have not gotten an order as for sure had I left his office, Mr. competition would have stolen my business.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 15, 2012 9:29 AM by Wayne Vaughn
Never, Ever Have the sales conversation over the phone. 
When I first started calling I'd be so excited to get a prospect on the phone that I'd launch right into my sales pitch as soon as they answered. Most of these phone calls ended in disappointment. It was only later that I learned to "close to the appointment"; not engaging in the sales process over the phone - but waiting until we were face to face (a better venue for the kind of discussion you talk about above) to have the actual sales conversation.
Posted @ Thursday, February 16, 2012 6:56 AM by Brad Farris
I'd been on the job about three weeks. I had no business calling on the huge company I cold-called. I would have destroyed through ignorance any project I won, and botched it forever for my company. The receptionist, possibly feeling sorry that day for stupid people, told me that it wouldn't be possible to speak with the vice-president, BUT, coincidentally, they had just put a team together to handle a large pro-bono project. This team would need what I was selling. Soon I was chatting with a person who was as much a novice as I. Sure, I could give her prices on about a half-million dollars worth of various products. Which I did. The chief estimator at my company happened to handle the pricing. He told me that we could do the job the way everybody else was bidding, or we could do it a way he had figured out that would save the customer about $73,000. He reminded me that if I went in with the higher price and the company got the order, I would be putting about $50,000 in my pocket. Good luck, kid, he said. I knew exactly what I had to do. How many bidders were there? With that info, I could evaluate my chances at going in with the higher figures. In my wisdom, I decided not to call the buyer and nose around. He might get suspicious. I went in with the lower number, and got a call within the hour that I had landed the order. "That's great," I said, "how much money did I save you?" The buyer was confused. "What do you mean?" "What was the next higher bid amount? I asked. "I don't know," Mr. Buyer said. "I didn't get any other bids. Should I have?"
Posted @ Wednesday, February 22, 2012 2:36 PM by Bill Hampton
Great lesson as always. I'd like to share my story with you years ago when I was selling Dale Carnegie I would get very frustrated when trying to sell to engineers and geologists at the big oil companies. So one day intuitively I had a strong hunch that I decided I'd try. Instead of going in and telling and selling I'd try a different approach. I went in and stated my purpose was to answer whatever questions my prospect had about the course. After he asked about a half a dozen questions and I tied down that they were answered to his satisfaction he blurted out, " what's the next step ? " I said you have to pick a date that works with your schedule so I gave him a few dates and asked him which worked best for him and then said pointing to the enrollment card all I need to get from you today is some diploma information and pointing to whee he had to sign the card your permission to work with you and train you. He signed up on the spot. 
Thanks Jill for all of your great information in your newsletter and website like the Value Proposition Generator and The Buyer's Matrix which are free resources ! I also like the fact that you also use other author's to make salient points.I look forward to getting your newsletter.  
Finally keep in your prayers legendary sales and personal development teacher, visionary and author and founder of Wilson Learning, Larry Wilson who's been  
diagnosed with throat cancer and must undergo radiation treatments. Larry is back where you are and deserves all of our prayers and good thoughts for all of the wonderful things he's taught the world!
Posted @ Saturday, February 25, 2012 12:13 PM by John Volpe
This is a good blog article. I'm working with artisans who love what they do and are painfully linked to their products.  
I'll be sharing your article with them.
Posted @ Monday, February 27, 2012 7:02 AM by Jenny Spring
Here's another article you might want to share with your artisans.  
Why Passion Doesn't Sell 
Posted @ Monday, February 27, 2012 11:59 PM by JIll Konrath
I love your strategy for the engineers. You flipped things around entirely, given them control but leading the conversation with your questions.  
To me, sales has always been about experimentation -- finding out what works. Too few people take that approach and keep using strategies that are ineffective.  
Also, thanks for telling me about Larry. He and his company were very inspirational in my early years doing consulting/training. I will keep him in my thoughts & prayers.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 28, 2012 12:12 AM by Jill Konrath
This is a very interesting article because it uncovers one of the main problems I have to deal with on a daily basis in my sales training. Sales people are often way too involved with their own objectives to ask quesions that can make a customer "switch on the lamp in their head!" There's a huge difference between a customer coming up with their own idea and a sales person forcing it down their throat. Thanks Jill for that little bit of inspiration.
Posted @ Tuesday, May 22, 2012 4:27 AM by David Lynch
I have a story I'd like to share about knowing when to be quiet; something salespeople seem to have a lot of trouble with! 
I was working as a district manager for a retail store; furniture, electronics and appliances as the product lines. 
I had just walked to the front of the showroom after finishing up inventory with an associate in the backroom. 
A woman had just entered the store and was looking at a dining table and chairs. I casually said "I can have that to your house in time for Thanksgiving" (which was two days away). She said "I would love it, but unfortunately, I need 6 chairs and this is a set of four (as listed on the price card). Remember, I had just come from the back room, so I said "If I had two extra chairs, would you take it?" she said yes, I put her on an order form immediately (she would be financing through the store's in-house program). As she sat there filling out her details, the store manager came over, and asked if she was getting this table. She said yes, and that she was also getting two extra chairs, etc. 
At that point, the manager said: "That is fantastic, that is one of our most popular sets, you know". 
She immediately stopped writing, looked up and said " Oh...Oh, my...well, that's too bad because I was looking for something unique." 
She put down her pen, put down the order form, thanked us for our time (nothing we said at that point made any difference) and left the store. The sale was dead. 
I have used that example as a lesson time and time again as I trained salespeople: When the deal is closed...stop selling! 
(and sad to hear about Larry Wilson, he was instrumental in my training as a young salesperson)
Posted @ Monday, June 11, 2012 7:50 AM by Brian Brereton
Post Comment
Website (optional)

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics