Follow-up on “They think your idea won’t work.”

I promised last week I would answer the question of what happened at the bank when I directed the branch managers to ask every customer, “How are we treating you?”  Or, “What’s been your experience with our service?”  The managers had complained, assuming that the customers would dump their complaints on them and take up too much time.

In fact the opposite was true.  Although the bank was not generally noted for excellent customer service, most customers were so pleasantly surprised by the question that they were disarmed and simply stated that everything was fine.  And those customers who did have problems or complaints responded in a positive, agreeable manner, thus making it easier for the bankers to address the issues without rancor.

One regional manager told me he received a letter of praise from a customer, who wrote that he had been doing business with various banks for many years, but that in all that time he had never once been asked by the bank what he thought of their service. That’s the kind of letter that flies around an organization as evidence that the bank is doing the right things, and so it did.  Asking customers “How are we doing?” is a great retention tactic.  Why don’t you try it at your company?

My newsletter went out this past Tuesday which is why I didn’t post here.  Here’s the abbreviated text, so you can use the exercise in a training session or sales meeting:

“We’ll pretend you’re a life insurance salesperson and your job is to sell me a policy.  Write down the first five questions that come to your mind that you should ask me.  I’ll give you 2 minutes.  Go!

Here are the top questions the learners offer:

“How much insurance do you need, or what assets are you trying to protect?”

“What medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, do you have?”

“How old are you?”

“How many children do you have?”

“Do you engage in any dangerous hobbies such as sky-diving?”

“What’s your annual income?”

These are all useful and necessary questions, and I scribe them on a flip chart.  Once I have a good list, I remind the learners, “I asked you for questions to sell me a policy, but you’ve given me questions to qualify me.  Do you see the difference?  Which of your questions will help you advance your sale, and which questions simply help you to know what kind of policy to sell?”

So we do the exercise again, and there’s a big “Aha!”  Here are the new and better questions:

“If you were to die unexpectedly, what financial circumstances would your family be in?”

“How qualified is your spouse to return to the workforce, or could your family survive on your spouse’s existing income?”

“What kind of education do you want for your children?”  Nobody ever answers this question with, “Oh, I don’t care.  Let them fend for themselves.”

These selling questions help prospects through their own self-discovery process and conclude, “Gee, I really need to protect my family!”

So you see the idea don’t you?  If you’re not thinking like your customer, you’ll ask questions that you need, rather than the ones that the customer needs.  Bankers in particular do poorly at this exercise because they think like lenders and ask questions that qualify the borrower rather than selling. That’s why customer-centricity is always more effective.”

Next week I’ll address another reason why employees don’t do what they’re supposed to do:  they think their way is better!

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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