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Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Lose a Sale: Give your philosophy of life instead of answering questions about the product

Grading mid-terms I often write the words "non-responsive to the question" in the margin.  It isn't that the student doesn't know the answer; rather, sometimes the student will write something to justify his/her opinion about the noun located inside the question rather than respond to the question as a whole.

Here's an example:  What are the three main concepts that drive the production of all workplace documents?
The correct answer begins with naming these three concepts:  reader, purpose and occasion.

Instead, a student might begin by writing, "I think emails are important because everyone uses them and format is important because everyone needs to know formats, and I believe that proofreading really counts!"

The three nouns inside that response are good choices to mention in a business writing class but not the answer to the question: they exist to prove that you have picked up some words about writing but you have missed the big picture and settled on details that fit in the margins of the discussion.

Why this matters is because most people going into the workplace will eventually have a product to represent, and not knowing how to answer a direct question directly often allows you to maintain a behavior of not answering the questions that a prospective client or customer might ask. 

Here's an example:  A prospective client asks a fledgling company web-page designer for a rate card, time frame for production and simultaneously provides all of the copy that will need to be on the web page. 

The web page designer, who needs to close the sale before proving himself, replies with a form, saying:  "Fill this out." And then offers a philosophy of doing business with the added claim, "We really believe in ourselves."

No sale.
No sale.
No sale.

That response is about justifying one's self rather than meeting a client's needs.  That void of meeting a prospective client's needs is quite similar to not being able to answer a direct question on a mid-term exam.

If you are working your way through college on your way to working in the non-academic world, pay attention to the words "non-responsive to the question."  There's a fair chance that you will continue that behavior in the workplace where the price paid isn't a poor grade on a test but less money in the profit margin.

1 comment:

  1. "The customer is always right." In order to reap good sales, you must have the ability to answer important questions for your client and be able to meet the client's needs without trying to impose your personal opinions on them. You can't afford to dance around questions in today's world- especially in the midst of today's economy- when competition is higher than ever, and good salesmanship is crucial for returning business opportunities.