The Right Lever Can Move the World – You can see loyalty happen.

The call on George’s customers ran longer than expected, so Mike and Tony had to rush to make their next appointment on time. They said goodbye to a jubilant George, scheduled a debriefing conference call with him for the next day, and sped off to Bob’s office.

Bob was pleasant enough during the introductions. Tony made a point of presenting Mike as a high-level executive, and Bob was gracious, though not overly impressed. But they had no more than settled into their chairs when Bob opened the meeting with a line that made Mike’s blood run cold.

“Carol told me you have some ideas for us, and I’ll listen to your pitch,” he said. “In fairness, though, I should tell you that we have a talented group of software developers, and I’ve pretty much decided we’ll take care of this purchasing-system project ourselves. I’ve only got about 20 minutes, so let’s get started.”

Holy smoke, Tony, you weren’t kidding about this call being a tough one, Mike thought. We’re dead on arrival. What now?

Tony, however, seemed unflustered. “We appreciate you giving us the time, Bob. Carol has told me a little bit about your role in the company. May I ask how you developed your interest in business finance?”

’90 percent of our salespeople would have given the client what he asked for: a product pitch.’

The query surprised Bob, and he stopped to think. It obviously wasn’t something he got to discuss often. “That’s a good question,” he said. And Bob began to talk—about himself. Tony listened attentively.

There’s my answer to, “What now?” Mike thought. We’re in Act 2, so we stay in Act 2, building a personal relationship. I’ll bet 90 percent of our salespeople would have thrown the system out the window and given the client what he asked for: a product pitch. We’re probably still doomed, but at least the guy is talking.

Tony asked Bob a few more questions about his background and his role in the company. Bob began to loosen up a bit as he answered. He may have been no closer to changing his mind, at least consciously. But he’s becoming engaged in the conversation, Mike observed. This isn’t what he expected.

Tony moved seamlessly into Act 3 by mentioning his previous meetings with Carol and her staff. He asked questions based on concerns he had uncovered. Bob clearly was impressed by the research Tony had done, and his answers grew more candid. He began to think out loud, working his way through some of the issues Carol’s people had raised.

Bob seriously cares about making the right decision on the purchasing system, Mike realized. He’d be deaf to a sales pitch from someone trying to talk him out of his grow-your-own plan, but he doesn’t mind discussing his situation with someone who seems to understand many of the issues involved—and who also seems to care.

Then Tony asked the question he had revealed to Mike at lunch: “Bob, if your people come up with solid ideas that will improve business operations, how much importance do you place on trying to implement those ideas?”

“Well, I try to find ways to empower our employees so they’ll feel invested in what the company is doing and how,” Bob replied. “People buy in when they’re involved in decision-making.”

“When they buy in,” Tony asked, “how does that affect a project’s success?”

“It’s huge! Employees can make or break a project depending on whether they buy in.”

“This is a subject that really interests me,” Tony said. “I’m curious about your opinion. When employees feel invested, as you say, how does that affect their loyalty to your company…?”

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling. He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations. Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).