What a 9-Year-Old Can Teach You About Selling

If you want your conversations to have a real impact, you need to simplify your message.

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I recently read a study that confirmed my suspicion that most people don’t remember what we present to them in a sales call. The data suggested that the average buyer in a meeting will only remember one thing–one!–a week after your meeting.

Oh, and by the way: You don’t get to choose what that one thing is. Sigh.

So what have sales professionals done about this? They have worked on “honing the message,” developing a “compelling unique advantage” and, of course, the ultimate silver bullet: a surefire elevator pitch.

But here’s what you’re fighting: A world cluttered with information, schedules, packed with more meetings and work than a person can handle. A decision-making process with more people involved in every choice–many of whom know little about your product or service. No wonder so little is remembered; often your audience doesn’t even understand much about what you’re offering.

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What Kids Want to Know

I have a 9-year-old daughter with spring freckles, long brown hair and blue eyes the size of silver dollars. She asks the kinds of questions that on the surface seem so simple:

  • Daddy, what do you do?
  • Why do people decide to hire you?
  • Why don’t they hire somebody else or do it themselves?

One of the great things about 9-year-olds: Like many buyers these days, they lack context. Any answer that you provide has to be in a language that they can understand.

What does a procurement specialist know about what you sell–or the IT person, or the finance person? The challenge is this: Can you answer the three questions my 9-year-old asked, for your own business?

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Hint: There are right and wrong answers for both.

Daddy, What Do You Do?

  • Right answer: “I help companies to grow really fast by teaching them how to sell bigger companies much larger orders.”
  • Wrong answer: “Our company helps develop inside of our clients a replicable and scalable process for them to land large accounts.”

Why Do People Decide to Hire You?

  • Right answer: “We have helped lots of companies do this before, so we are really good at it as long as they are the right type of companies.”
  • Wrong answer: “We have a proven process for implementation that allows organizations to tailor the model to their market, business offering and company’s growth goals.”

Why Don’t They Do It Themselves?

  • Right answer: “Just like when you learned to play the piano: Mommy and I could teach a little, but we don’t know as much as your teacher, and teaching you ourselves would take a long time and be very frustrating. Daddy is a really good teacher of how to make bigger sales, and people want to learn how to do this as fast as they can.”
  • Wrong answer: “We are the foremost expert in this field with over $5 billion in business that our clients have closed using this system. Usually our clients have tried a number of things on their own before we work together and have wanted outside help to get better results.”

In these cases, both answers are accurate, but that doesn’t make them right. In a world in which more decisions are made with less information and context, our responsibility is to get to as clear and memorable an answer as possible for all of the buyers to understand.

Author, speaker and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he’s helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Tom’s weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales@tomsearcy

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