The Most Important Sales and Marketing Skill of 2015 and Beyond
What I’m about to tell you isn’t ground-breaking stuff.
And I’m not going to cloak it as some new-age technique that has never been talked about before.
That being said, if there is one thing I’ve learned in this business over the last 6 years is this:
By simple things are great things turned into reality.
This is true with sales and marketing, and it’s also true with life.
But for now, let’s talk sales and marketing.
What Teaching People How to Teach has Taught Me
Before I dive into the point of this article, I want to share with you something I’ve been reminded of over the past six months. You see, in the middle of 2014 I started to offer something rather unique in the marketing space—a workshop on how to give workshops.
In other words, I’m now teaching other marketing agencies to do what I’ve been doing at The Sales Lion for about 4 years in giving an Inbound/Content Marketing Workshop to entire organizations with the purpose of instilling vision, buy-in, and immediate momentum.
A few folks in the marketing space have asked me why I would teach agencies how to do something that is a competitive advantage of TSL, and my response is always one of perplexity.
As I’ve said before on this little blog, truth isn’t mine to keep. I don’t own it. And there is certainly room on top for everyone—no matter the industry or space.
But as I’ve been teaching these workshops, I’ve realized that what I was doing really had nothing to do with workshops at all.
Instead, I was helping the participants go from a “talk first” teacher to a “question first” teacher—something that very few people actually do well.
As some of you that listen to my podcast know, whenever I teach a workshop I have a set of roughly 75 questions I ask every single time. Once you combine those with the other questions that result in typical workshop conversation, roughly 120-130 questions generally leave my mouth over the course of a 3-4 hour workshop.
Hard to believe?
To some, yes, but it’s also the reason I’ve been able to experience such an extreme amount of success in getting content marketing buy-in in organizations where no one thought there could be any.
I don’t say this to brag, but rather to make a point.
I see the world in terms of great questions. I’m obsessed with asking them in the best and most effective way possible. And because I have this obsession, it has catapulted my agency and speaking career to heights I didn’t dream possible just a few short years ago.
The Way We Think
Let’s assume for a second you’re a CEO of a company and you go to someone in your marketing department and ask them the question, “What is content marketing?”
I can tell you that 99% of marketers in the world would immediately give the answer, spouting out a definition they’ve heard again and again on marketing websites everywhere.
And it’s because they immediately give the answer that buy-in (aka “selling the c-suite”) is such a big problem in the content marketing space.
Instead of giving the answer, what would happen if these 99% of marketers responded with a question—one that helped the CEO understand how he or she consumes helpful content online all day long when making a purchasing decision? What would happen if it was painted in a way that the CEO actually defined the phrase without the marketer having to giving any answer at all?
That, my friends, is the essence of great communication, and it’s also an incredible rarity.
The Power of Asking Great Questions Transcends and Touches Everything
What we’re talking about here goes way beyond getting buy-in for content marketing though.
Let’s look at successful sales people for a minute. My good friend Ian Altman, who is a literal world-class sales trainer, spends the majority of his time helping companies and sales pros learn to think in terms of questions instead of answers. His philosophy is one that works, and frankly, one that many of the most experienced sales professionals struggle with. (I’ve watched him role-play with dozens and dozens of seasoned sales vets and rarely, if ever, do they sell with a complete focus on asking great questions.)
In another example, let’s analyze parenting for a second. If you have children (or are around kids often) you know they have inquisitive minds and are quick to ask questions. But when they do this, how do you respond? Do you quickly give the answer or do you help them discover the truth for themselves. For years, my wife and I have discussed this and during this time I’ve seen her go from an “answer-first” mindset to one where she now leads the children down a path of self-discovery. (As a dad, this is pretty cool to watch.)
Getting to the Psychological Core of It All
As human beings, we all share a rather interesting quality—we want to feel like we’re in control.
In other words, we’d always rather come up with our own ideas than adhere to the ideas of others.
If there are rules to be followed, we want to feel like we were the ones that made them up.
The world’s best marketers, copywriters, communicators, and sales professionals understand the quickest route to invoking self-discovery in others is by way of questions—questions that induce personal reflection, emotion, and ultimately, action.
So I would ask you this:
Do you have a question-first mentality, or instead, are you quick to give an answer whenever you’re given the opportunity?
Remember, although the latter may help you *appear* smart, the former will help them feel like a genius.
And in the end, they are all that matters.
Latest posts by Marcus Sheridan (see all)
- Using Video to Improve SEO and Inbound Marketing in 2017 - August 23, 2017