So here’s the thing, I don’t consider myself an accomplished “writer”, my job involves helping sales people to be more consultative and better understand their potential clients. This is an integral part of training that I help to design and deliver at 2Win!. Nonetheless I was compelled to write this after my experience this weekend when I went to the local grocer to purchase some baby back ribs for a Sunday BBQ.
A little back story…
I have been cooking ribs for about 30 years. Now granted, I really didn’t start to understand the art of smoking ribs until I moved to the South but that is still a good 20 years ago. So early Sunday morning I head over to the grocery store to shop for some pork baby back ribs. Just for further reference I had a choice of four other major grocers within a 3-mile radius of my home.
This grocer was running a sale on St. Louis Style ribs, however there were a couple of baby back slabs in the cooler, which is what I was looking for. While conducting my usual analytical determination whether these were “worthy cuts” a young man wearing a butcher’s apron approached. I commented to the young man, “These seem a little meaty to me, I like mine trimmed a bit closer to the bone”. The young man responded using the non-consultative approach by stating, “Sir, ribs are ribs.” Not a good start. He continued, “If these were trimmed any closer there wouldn’t really be any meat, also these are the only two slabs we have but over here you can see we have a large selection of St. Louis Style.” I replied, “Sure I saw those, but I only have about 5 hours of cooking time and for the St. Louis you need closer to 8 hours”. Now my friend begins his consultation. “Well sir when I cook St. Louis style ribs I cook them in the oven and they come out great and you only need about four hours. It’s also important to know if you use a spice such a cumin which is a natural marinade, it breaks down the meat so it’s really tender.”
Little did the young man know…
I have spent at least 15 years working on the perfect rub which is a specific combination that provides an ultimate rib taste with just the right spice and marinade properties. In addition, St. Louis ribs are an entirely different cut that requires a specific approach to smoking, spicing, etc. PLUS, I wanted some freakin’ baby backs!
So what does this have to do with consultative selling? Well, the young man never asked me a single question like “What method of cooking do you use?”, “Interesting, can you tell me more about that?” or “Let me talk to our butcher and see if he can trim these for you.”
The problem with being “consultative” without understanding the back-story of your client is a dangerous proposition. This interaction really made me think about when our clients take the consultative approach to a software sale. Their prospect may have years and years of experience, possibly much more than them and have been through literally dozens of software purchases and implementations during their career. So even though you have the best intentions and interest of the client in mind, such as the young man in my story, the outcome can be nothing short of disastrous.
The end of the story:
You guessed it, I went back out to my car drove half a mile to the next grocer and a young man named Adam, behind the butcher case, helped me find the perfect slab of baby backs. They are smoking right now which gave me a few minutes to write this and will be ready at 6:00 p.m. sharp.