Every night for the past six weeks it has been my pleasure to read to my four sons the bedtime story entitled ‘The Very Cranky Bear’ by Nick Bland before they go to bed. Due to this ritual my children and I have learnt to recite the story without needing to read the words.
During one of our recent recitals I made a better effort to pay closer attention to the words and noticed that whilst the story does an incredible job of engaging it’s intended audience, there is also a lesson that can be learned for those in the world of sales and marketing.
If you haven’t read the story, here it is…
The Very Cranky Bear
In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day, four little friends found a perfect place to play. Moose had marvelous antlers and Lion, a golden mane, Zebra had fantastic stripes and Sheep… well, Sheep was plain.
None of them had noticed that someone else was there. Sleeping in that cave was a very cranky… BEAR!!! ROAAAAR! Went the cranky bear, ROAR, ROAR, ROAR! He gnashed his teeth and stomped his feet and chased them out the door.
So in the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day, four little friends had nowhere warm to play.
Wait a minute, said Zebra, as she scratched her furry chin. Maybe if we cheered him up, he’d let us comeback in. If I did not have stripes, said Zebra, I’d be cranky too. We should give that bear some stripes, that’s what we should do.
Stripes are silly, moose complained, especially on a bear. My antlers always cheer me up, let’s give that bear a pair. No, no, no, no, no, said Lion, antlers are a bore! A golden mane like mine, he said, would cheer him up for sure.
So Zebra fetched a tin of mud and Lion, some grass of gold. Moose got two big branches, and Sheep… well, Sheep got cold. Sheep was getting worried. They’ve been eaten up for sure! And then, from in the cave, there came a very cranky…ROAAAAR. Zebra, Lion and Moose ran out and Bear was right behind them. They hid behind the bushes where they hoped he wouldn’t find them.
Why is he still cranky, he’s got antlers, stripes and mane? Before we gave him those, Lion said, he looked so very plain! As Bear stormed back inside the cave, he turned and roared at Sheep. ALL I REALLY WANT, he said, IS A QUIET PLACE TO SLEEP!
So she fetched a pair of clippers and she clipped off half her wool. She stuffed it in a cotton bag until the bag was full. She tip-toed back inside the cave. Excuse me Bear, she said. Would you like a pillow for underneath your head?
Well, thank you very much, said Bear and soon he fell asleep. Maybe he was dreaming of a plain, but thoughtful sheep.
Here’s the thing… the 4 friends, (Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep), begin resolving Bear’s problem, automatically assuming that he’s just cranky and needs cheering up. The friends failed to complete the most important part of the sales process…identifying the need.
Three of the friends decided to offer Bear a solution, regardless of whether it was what Bear needed or not. Naturally these solutions were ineffective and were met with a less than amicable outcome. When the Bear announced to the fourth friend what the actual problem was, she was able to come up with a solution that allowed both parties to achieve a successful outcome.
How many of us have found ourselves in this situation when engaged with a new prospect? We become so eager to sell a client an outcome based on our own agenda before we even think about what the client may actually want or need. Our agenda can consist of some of the following when autopilot is engaged :
- Assumptions are made of what we think the client is looking for
- We try to sell them something we know we’re good at selling
- We throw our best selling offer on the table
- We push what we have on promotion at the time
And the list goes on.
Perhaps this is why our leads go cold after preparing a proposal. Perhaps this is why a prospect avoids our phone calls when we attempt to follow up.
Perhaps this is why the ‘follow up’ starts to become the hardest part of the sales process, because we haven’t understood the clients needs, we haven’t understood the clients ‘Pain Points’ and we haven’t identified what the most important thing is to them.
We’ve tried to sell them something they don’t want or need.
So, next time when dealing with potential clients, instead of jumping in and offering an assumed solution, take time to listen and ask questions to first understand the client’s position.
Only then are you able to provide a solution that works, whilst building a strong business relationship that will get long term results.