All the answers are out there. The answers...not the questions
Went offroading with my son a few weeks back with his '96 XJ Jeep Cherokee. Man were we happy together. At one point (as expected) the jeep got stuck. In an angle that at first seemed impossible to get out of. Couldn't get our friends' Wrangler aligned behind us to "winch" us out either due to the trees. My son looked worried (this is a worrying smile in the picture) as he looked at me when I said to him: "my love, you know we will figure it out. There is no doubt and you know it sot hink about the answer, the solution. Trust me, all answers are out there..."
“All the answers are out there”.
This was the mantra a former VP Sales of mine used to repeat consistently whenever he saw his sales team in the office. “Look guys” he used to say, “go get to know them, go find out THEIR needs. THEIR challenges. It’s not about you, it’s about THEM”. And there was this one guy. One salesperson who was never in the office. He was making maybe one weekly sale call every 3-4 weekly. And his numbers were through the roof. “The answers are out there”. Took me years to really understand and adopt this advice. “All the answers are out there”. What does it mean? What answers? To what questions?
It was during an annual customer 2 days event. I was overseeing the Sales Engineers team and just stepped into this role 2 months earlier. We were walking down the stairs, that one sales guy who was never in the office and myself, towards the reception area of the opening event. From the top of the stairs, we noticed that people already started gathering. As we take the last turn of the stairway into the last set of stairs I hear his name called. GREG!!!! That was his name and whoever called him made so with this notion of - man, it’s so good to see you and I’ve missed you brother kind of a vibe. I looked a bit embarrassed as I see this guy, a bit older than us, approaches my colleague with a huge smile on his face, giving him a very warm side hug. Greg, my colleague responded with the same level of warmth, and stated while a huge smile on his face: “it’s really good to see you Bill” and followed with “man, I didn’t think you’d make it. How did your daughter’s surgery go?”. At that point, being new at the company, I assumed this Bill was simply someone from our colleagues I haven’t met yet, and being they went into a personal discussion, I just stepped away. But I couldn’t help thinking how amazing it is to have a colleague, or anyone really, be so happy to see you. I remember noting to myself to ask Greg how he did it.
“The answers are all out there, we just need to ask the right questions.” — Oscar Wilde
Later that evening over some nightcaps, from the other side of the bar I saw Greg saying good night to Bill (who at this point, I was still certain he was a colleague) and remaining by himself. Seizing the moment I grabbed the stool next to him. And after the quick pleasantries I asked him about what happened earlier by the staircase. He told me this was actually a new client he just closed 2 weeks ago. “2 weeks ago???” I wondered out loud. “Two weeks and the two of you acted like you both knew each other a lifetime”. Greg looked at me and chuckled. “Well, but the sales cycle was about 6 months…” he replied. “still” I pressed, “you simply have to share with me that personal aspect of your relationship with him. How did you get so close in such a short period of time?”. “Alon, it really is all about them. You see, when I just started my career in sales, I was taught to sell what I came to sell. But over the years I learned to sell not what I came to sell but rather what THEY want to buy. And to really understand what they want to buy, you have to understand THEM. And to understand them you must get personal”.
As he was saying these words of wisdom, our VP Sales approached. Overhearing part of the conversation he joined us while nodding for agreement. I decided to jump on the opportunity and asked him: “hey boss, what do mean when you say all the answers are out there? Answers to which questions exactly?”
“You just heard Greg talk about getting to know the clients. Getting personal with them. Understanding what they want to buy. The really amazing thing Greg learned to do is listen. Understand them. Their needs. Their challenges. And the cool thing to see is that when you get to a level of relationship where the client is so happy to see you and feel like they missed you. When they are emotional while speaking with you and tell you about the surgery their daughter is going through, then Alon, despite Oscar Wilde's recommendation, you won’t really need to ask any questions. Just listen to the answers. All the answers are out there with the clients. The answers, not the questions”.