Break a Window to Get Your Customer’s Attention – by Gary Hart

They aren’t listening, they aren’t paying attention, they aren’t engaged! How many times have those thoughts run through your mind during a presentation?

During the recession of the early 1980s, I sold home improvements for a very brief time in Colorado, as I worked my way back to New York. The economy was in dire straits with unemployment exceeding 10% and double-digit interest rates. Sales executive and management positions did not exist and selling was tough.

I went to work for a manufacturer of energy-efficient replacement windows and solar greenhouses. The environment was a big concern to my generation of hippies and the government. That and the government’s 15% energy-tax credit motivated me to take this particular job. One quiet afternoon, our fearless leader sent me out on a rare midday presentation.

We salespeople re-qualified every lead before going on an appointment. After confirming our prospective buyer’s earnest desire to purchase, making sure the husband and wife, both decision makers, would be present was critical. On this occasion, only the husband was home. Our manager insisted that I go instead of rescheduling.

I arrived in the client’s upper-middle-class subdivision home to find him tired and unshaven. “Do you have any coffee?” I asked. The kitchen was the place of choice for doing business and a request for coffee was a good way in. The lights were out and he refused to light the room up. “There’s plenty of sunlight,” he begged, “I’m very tired.” The skylight and big windows did not set my stage according to plan.

That was the beginning and end of our short warmup and introduction. “Let’s just get to the presentation,” he commanded. I almost walked out.

That day I presented our top energy-rated thermal-pane replacement windows. With 300 sunny days per year in the Denver area, Low-E Glass that reflects sunlight is high value.  We used a small sample window to explain their construction, how they work, and benefits. It was a simple one- or two-call sale.

There is a point in the presentation where we explain an ancillary safety feature. We describe how the glass breaks in an unusual pattern of long shards. The broken shards are difficult to remove and the harder you push against them, the tighter they wedge in. This feature is not demonstrated, but explained.

This prospect was not playing along. A double shot of espresso would not have made a difference. He was dreaming of his bed and down pillows and I was frustrated. When describing the safety glass feature, we rapped the glass a couple of times. It was a great attention getter. Well the glass shattered – exactly as I described. And I went on with my presentation, as though I broke the window during every presentation.

“Do you see how the glass breaks into long sharp shards and how they wedge in tighter the more you push? This prevents thieves from breaking in through windows and from creating a huge mess…”

He stopped me right there. “You’re bleeding!” he shouted. I thought he was going to throw me out of his house. But he got up, flipped on all of the lights, grabbed some paper towels and led me to the kitchen sink. He grabbed some Band-Aids and hydrogen peroxide. After he cleaned and bandaged my wound, he cleaned the floor.

He was alive!

“Let’s have some coffee,” he said and then became a chatterbox. I learned he was a sales trainer and keynote speaker on the topic of sales. He apologized for being tired and disengaged. He just returned from a long trip late the previous night.

“You never stopped. You kept going, as if breaking windows were part of your presentation. I talk about your kind of attitude all of the time. I’d like your permission to use this story.” Then he told me exactly what he wanted.

We ran through his neighbors’ yards and looked at the windows he liked. Then we went back to his home, I measure his windows and we signed a sale. I earned a week’s salary that day.

Cutting through the noise is more and more challenging. Getting your client’s attention and keeping it is the first order of meeting creation. Setting the stage requires you to ask for that privilege.

Give your client control to make this happen. Let them know you are blocking out time just for them. Ask, “What is the best day, time and location for our meeting to be the most productive?”

And if all else fails and you lose their attention, break a window!


BIO: Gary Hart helps companies increase sales with streamlined sales processes that shorten sales cycles for improved win rates with larger margins. He has a knack for discovering hidden opportunities within your organization and leveraging them to create competitive advantages and unique value propositions. Gary is passionate about developing customer experiences that lengthen customer life. Find Gary at www.SalesDuJour.comLinkedin, TwitterGoogle+


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