Court Agnostics, Not Zealots


JESUS himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The hard people to convert to Macintosh were MS-DOS zealots. They worshipped an alternate (and false), GOD. The comfortable people to convert to Macintosh had never used a personal computer before.

Their unfamiliarity with what a computer should look like, what it’s supposed to do, and where to buy it worked to Apple’s advantage. In their case, Apple didn’t have to undo established ways of thinking, much less violate corporate computing standards.

“Agnostics—people who don’t deny the validity of your religion and who are at least willing to consider the existence of your GOD—are a much better market.”

At first, however, the Fortune 500 information-technology market was pursued to supplant the IBM PC in these large organizations. Failure ignores zealots. Agnostics—people who don’t deny the validity of your religion and are at least willing to consider the existence of your god—are a much better market.

They are easier to please than zealots because you’re opening a brave new world for them instead of displacing an entrenched one. Apple seldom got people to switch from Windows, but Macintosh was life-changing and empowering for people who never used a computer before.

Make Prospects Talk

Usually, Sales prospects who are willing to buy your product will often tell you what it will take to close a deal. All you have to do is shut up and listen. This sounds easy, but it’s not because people who don’t understand rainmaking are clueless.

The process is simple:

Create a comfortable environment by obtaining permission to ask questions.

Ask questions.

Listen to the answers.

Take notes.

Take notes.

Explain how your product can fill their needs—if it does.

Many salespeople fail at this process, however, for the following reasons:

They are not prepared to ask the right questions. It takes research to understand prospects and how your product might benefit them. Furthermore, salespeople are afraid that asking questions will make it look like they don’t already know the answer.

They can’t shut up because they belong to the bludgeon school of sales: keep talking until the prospect submits and agrees to buy. Or, they may be able to shut up, but then they don’t bother listening. (Hearing is involuntary; listening is not.)

They don’t take notes because they are lazy or don’t consider the information necessary. Taking notes is a good idea. First, it will help you remember things. Second, it will show prospects that you care enough about what they said to write it down.

They don’t know enough about their product to apply it to the needs of prospects. This is inexcusable.

Explain how your product can fill their needs—if it does.

Suppose that your product offers several different benefits (not features!), such as lowering costs, opening new markets, and reducing the environment’s impact. Begin by mentioning all three services and let the prospects react. They will signal which of the benefits are the most relevant.

If nothing resonates, ask prospects what would. Please pay attention to their body language, not only what they say. They will offer you a valuable tidbit: “This is how to sell to me.” Remember, you’re selling, but they aren’t necessarily buying, so you need to do some detective work.

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