Ask About Them – Don’t Talk About You

Joe, an engineer with one of my clients, was promoted to department head. Marketing was now a major responsibility-and Joe was not having much success. I was asked to help by spending two days with Joe and possibly do some tutoring and teaching.
We met early the first day. Joe was obviously smart and enthusiastic. How could he not succeed? Later that day he gave a project status report to the staff at the client’s office. I went along. He was an effective speaker. How could he not succeed?
Near the end of the first day, Joe showed me a request for proposal, indicated that he was scheduled to meet with the potential client the next day, and asked if I would like to accompany him. I said “yes” and he said “let’s prepare for the meeting.” This guy was right on, he wanted to be prepared. How could he not succeed?
We then focused on meeting planning. Joe took out a pad of paper, laid it on his desk, and said “let’s list all the things we want to tell them about our company.” That’s when the light went on. His comment clashed with my marketing model. Accordingly, I suggested that we instead list all the things we want to ask the potential client. Joe somewhat reluctantly agreed. So we created a list of questions to ask about the client and their project.
The next day, as we drove to the potential client’s office, I offered one more suggestion: “Let’s set the goal of having them talk at least 75% of the time.” We met, we asked questions, and they talked at least 75% of the time. We learned much and Joe’s firm subsequently won the project.

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