By Mike Faber
While I’m not a great cook, I do have my specialties. Macaroni and cheese, salads, Buffalo-style chicken wings, and the occasional loaf of banana bread. Recently I created a breakout recipe that served as a good reminder for those of us who make our living in the learning and development space. The combination of ketchup and oatmeal turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser.
Perhaps that last line deserves some explanation. While volunteering for our local food task force, I was stationed outside a grocery store for several hours collecting food donations to help feed the hungry. My initial pitch sounded like this; “Hi, here’s a quick look at what your local food bank can use to help feed those less fortunate.” Handing out slips of pre-printed requests produced some good results, but the volume of collections was lagging after my first 30 minutes.
Like any self-aware salesperson, lackluster returns meant it was time to adjust my approach. Tailoring my message to the audience (for seniors, “We’re collecting donations to help needy seniors in the community.” For families, “We’re looking for food donations to help feed hungry kids and parents in the community.”) produced better results. Then I started asking for specific donations, in this case, bottles of ketchup and boxes of instant oatmeal. That’s when the contributions started to really roll in.
What’s the lesson? For starters, as L&D professionals, it’s critical for us to specify what we want out of a training, budget, or meeting with a stakeholder. Just like the food bank, we have particular objectives to achieve, and we depend on collaboration with others to succeed. Ask yourself, just as you ask those who you serve, what will make that next interaction a “win-win” for each party? How will you judge whether those mutual needs have been met?
Asking for the order and being specific about what you want isn’t the purview of used-car sales pros, it’s an expression of your professionalism. The recipe for asking what you want includes a handful of determination, a dollop of specific benefit to the person you’re asking, and a dose of data to make a compelling business case for your proposal.
Mike Faber is a member of the Sales Enablement team at Zoom Video Communications, specializing in sales training, leadership development, and coaching. Mike holds a Masters Degree from CSU-Global in Organizational Leadership, and is the author of numerous articles, blog posts, and two books on the topics of sales, leadership, and coaching.
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