“Take off your selling hat and put on your helping hat.” – Nick Serba
There’s a principle stated nearly 2,000 years ago that is as timely now as it was then. It’s a secret ingredient in any recipe for success. Applying it helps shoot you to the top of the charts in the minds of your present customers (clients) and future prospects. What is this amazingly simple yet oh-so-effective principle? It’s found in this statement:
“Whoever wants to be great among you must be your minister.” – Matthew 20:26 NWT
Stop and think about that for a moment. Jesus coupled greatness with being a minister to others. According to D. Edmond Hiebert in the Bibliotheca Sacra, the Greek word used in that verse (dia´ ko·nos) carries the meaning of “one who reaches out with diligence and persistence to render a service on behalf of others.” Thus, if you minister to others, you put your needs aside and put theirs first. This allows you to diligently and persistently work towards serving them in a meaningful and effective way.
How does all of this relate to changing hats and business success?
You Need to Let Go
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is by sharing a story about some literal hats I own. The first is a leather hat made in Australia that I bought…decades ago when a rainstorm caught me. Sure, I could have bought an umbrella. Yet the rain wasn’t falling that heavily, and – let’s face it – the hat looked cool! I wore that hat everywhere I could until one ill-fated trip to New Orleans (ill-fated for the hat, that is). While I was club-hopping on Bourbon Street, my hat somehow ended up on the dance floor where it was thoroughly trampled for the better part of five minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but believe me – there was a LOT of foot action! You won’t believe how much people love dancing to the grooves of a good band!
Anyway, the hat survived…but it wasn’t the same. It no longer retained shape like before. Still, I loved my hat and wore it on various occasions over the next few years with ever decreasing frequency. I recently started wearing it regularly again, much to the chagrin of my family (mainly mom). At first she suffered in silence, but the hat bothered her. So she started making comments – infrequently at first, but with increasing regularity until she took every opportunity to remind me the hat needed a retirement. So I eventually broke down and bought a new Fedora Trilby Derby hat. Now I can’t imagine wearing anything else.
What’s the point of all this? I had to let go of my attachment to what I knew (my old hat) and embrace a new paradigm (the Trilby). When it comes to the way we approach prospects, we may need to do the same. Sometimes you simply need to let go of old habits and ways of thinking.
The New Paradigm
My old hat corresponds to what Nick Serba refers to above as “your selling hat.” It’s a system of approaching a prospect and telling them about the value of what you have, extolling the many features of your product and service. Unfortunately, most prospects don’t care. I’m not saying the value of what you’re offering has little importance. Rather, I’m saying the average person doesn’t really care about all the nifty features of whatever it is you’re offering. What do they care about? A prospect’s only concern is his or her problems and/or needs. In order to reach them, you need to become a minister and help service those needs.
This is the foundation of Ari Galper’s Unlock the Game system. In it he teaches sales professionals how to find and meet the needs of their prospects. You’ll see that he embraces the idea of serving others in the foundational concepts upon which he builds his teachings. Here are the three that I took away:
- Defuse Pressure: The way we start and end our calls, and even the way in which we handle objections are all key moments where we can put our prospect at ease. If we defuse pressure in our interactions, the prospect is at ease. This puts them in the best position to help us accomplish the next step, which is…
- Get to the Truth. You can’t serve a person’s needs if you don’t know what they’re really thinking. For example, if a person says, “Send me some more information,” what are they actually asking of you? Are they saying, “Go away?” Are they still shopping around? Or do they truly want more information in order to make a final decision? Ari suggests asking about the one or two core problems they’re facing as a way of determining their real needs.
- Be a Problem Solver. Stop pitching the value of your offering. Instead, turn those features into problem statements. That is, take the problems your prospect faces (which you learned from the previous step) and show how your offering solves them. Now you’ve caught their attention, build trust, and establish yourself as someone who can help them accomplish the things most important to them.
These concepts force you to stop thinking of the features of your product or service and look at the problems and needs of your prospect. By shifting from being a pitch-person to becoming a problem solver, you take a customer-centered approach. You minister to the needs of your prospects. Yes, you change your hat.
Embracing this new paradigm isn’t always easy, but it is definitely rewarding. You’ll see the results in your bottom line. More importantly, you’ll create loyal customers (and sometimes raving fans) who can become brand evangelizers for you. That kind of earned media is priceless.
Is it time to change your hat? If you find yourself chasing prospects, it may very well be. Instead, learn to minister to those prospects needs, thereby attracting them. You’ll soon find that more of them become customers, and you’ll both be happier as a result.
Have you had to “change hats” and embrace a new paradigm? If so, how challenging was it? What was the result of making the change? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below!