Getting on the customer’s wavelength

Poor reception

One of the most difficult obstacles I had when starting in business on my own was in persuading my prospects to listen to what I had to offer. Often they were just not tuned in to listen to me, and I guess what was worse was that I was not tuned in to listen to them first.

I thought that in my “brave new world” of being a business owner I should at least get some idea about selling. Unfortunately all the courses I went on at the outset were for the hard sell. The training was to pressure the prospect into realizing the pain they would suffer if they did not buy from me. There were structured scripts and I was expected to “close” the prospect within an hour and not come away before two hours had passed if I had not actually had the unfortunate person sign on the dotted line. I often got thrown out long before.

I didn’t get a single sale that way, and looking back I am not surprised. Firstly, most prospects (if we must call them that):

  • do not necessarily think they have a problem, or
  • think they have a problem but reckon they can solve it themselves or
  • think that some outsider wouldn’t understand the problem.

None of these mindsets will lead them to listen to someone such as myself, or you or anyone unless we have listened to the prospect first and got in tune with their way of thinking.


Our potential clients, who will very likely be business owners themselves, often feel insulted by anyone who gives them unsolicited advice and suggests how they might do things better; or in my case would offer hand-on help when they don’t think they need it. When we think about it, most people feel insulted when they get any sort of unsolicited advice concerning who they should go out with or what colour best suits them.

My sister, who never reads this blog, as a teenager took any sort of advice as a personal insult even if she had asked for it in the first place. She is not unique.


I learned a lesson about selling by telling people they are wrong quite a long time ago, but the other day had a sharp reminder when I made the mistake of offering a new Twitter follower some advice on basic strategy. He didn’t take it well, and although what I said was sound advice he insists he knows better. I should have shut up but if I had not being trying to help I would probably have not followed him back as I do not like his approach to Twitter.

I guess that I could be quite insulted too in certain circumstances. I entirely understand Nancy feeling hurt with the unsolicited advice she received. I might have taken it the same way. (Nancy is a good read so why not subscribe?).

Tune in

It had been said so often that we should listen. We should listen to our family and we should listen to our networking friends, and we should certainly listen to our potential customers before opening our big mouths. Otherwise they may hear us when we speak but they won’t listen. That is because if we haven’t listened then what we say will not be of value to them. Hearing is not listening.

In order to help anyone whether they are our potential client or our on-line or off-line friend we need to know how they feel and what they believe they need. Then we will have something to offer whether it is a business proposition, practical help or a shoulder to cry on. Any of those offerings will go towards building relationships and will help those in need.

From the sales point of view it is always worth re-reading How to Win Friends…  and checking in with Zig Ziglar (not affiliate links) but I expect you have these books already. I have both on my bedside table or night stand. Always listen!

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