Selling is About Serving

Serve, Don’t Sell During Your First Sales Meeting

The reason I love to sell is that I don’t have to talk very much. Instead, I just get to listen a lot. If I listen well, I never have to sell. Instead, CEOs buy the solution I have to offer.

After engaging in small talk to build likability, trust, and rapport, I get around to asking one of my favorite questions. “What is your biggest pain?” Or, “What’s keeping you up at night?” Get your coffee warmed up, and be prepared for a lengthy response.

Every Sales Meeting Is a Coaching Session

I never view a sales meeting as a way to generate a new client. Don’t get me wrong, that’s the ultimate goal. Instead, I approach every sales meeting as a one- or two-hour coaching session.

Why? Because this approach fits snugly within one of my core values–serving others. More importantly, your prospects want to talk about themselves and their current issues. They don’t care about your features and benefits, at least not yet.

If you are good at serving and listening, there will be nothing to fear in your first sales meeting.
As CFOs, we never sell. We ask questions when we’re meeting with CEOs who might need our services. We educate as we explore and probe during those CEO meetings. If we do our job right, the CEO will ask when we can get started. That’s what happened to me when I acquired my first consulting engagement in 1993.

3 Things I Do in Sales Meetings

I’ve never met a CFO who loves to sell. However, selling gets easier and easier over time. I don’t even think of these meetings as selling activities.

I love business. I love to learn. So my goal is to find out what’s working and what’s not working for these business owners you and I meet for the first time.

I rarely follow a script. I just bring an inquisitive and curious mind to the meeting. Looking back at every initial conversation I’ve had with a potential client, here’s what I generally do in every such discussion:

  1. As I listen to the client’s primary problem (and there may be more), I keep probing. I do not try to offer solutions immediately. Instead, I keep asking (more) leading questions. My objective is to get to the heart of the problem or problems through questions, and lots of them.
  2. Once the root cause of the problems is identified, then I start offering solutions, and I never hold back.This might sound counterintuitive. It’s not. Most CEOs know the cause of the problem. They just need help with the fix, and they are willing to pay for it. Furthermore, I focus more on what needs to be done. I do not address how the work will be done. If I do, it’s in broad generalities. My how is my secret sauce.
  3. I then give examples of similar problems from other projects. Everyone loves a good story. And that’s precisely what I’m doing–-telling a story through prior examples. You may be asking how this is done if you have no clients. Use examples from your background at a prior employer. Lack of clients should not prevent you from good storytelling.

As a follow-up to my last point, engaging the CEO’s mind with abstract or even tangible solutions to current problems is helpful to an extent. Engaging the CEO’s emotions through stories and real-life examples moves the heart. And that’s what we want, an engaged heart.

Selling Is About Serving

I’m reminded of Michael Hyatt’s saying, “You can never be too generous.”

Serving is more of a mindset versus a rigid set of rules and guidelines to follow.

Serving is at the very heart of my being and core values. I hope these guiding principles are part of your core values too. If you embrace this concept, selling will not become easy, just easier over time.


Image courtesy of Luke Chesser.

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