My pal was looking dejected. “What’s up?” I asked.
“Teenagers,” he moaned. “No money.” I was vaguely familiar with this tale of woe – and now Dan and Rory are getting older, I’ve started to notice my own bills creeping ominously upwards.
“Back to school,” he wailed. “New hockey stick. New bag to carry all her kit around. And now the damn Olympics have been on she has to have her hamstring strapped up with that stupid pink tape at six quid a go.”
Ah, yes… Casting my mind back to August I’d noticed that virtually all of the athletes were covered in what at first glance seemed to be brightly coloured gaffer tape.
“Does it work?” I asked my pal.
“What’s it matter?” he said. “She thinks it works. My job is to spend the six quid. Plus post and packing, obviously.”
I was thinking about the tape as I sat at my laptop that night. It’s called Kinesiology tape and no-one who was anyone even considered entering the Olympics without it. Unfortunately – at least according to Wiki – there is no scientific evidence that elastic therapeutic taping produces clinically significant benefits.
Does that matter? My friend’s daughter believes it works and – so far at least – her hamstring is still in one piece. The fact that she’s seen Olympic athletes using it means that it must work, because…well, they’re Olympic athletes, aren’t they?
Bright pink tape was still on my mind the next day. I’d just been talking to a potential Board member. “So what’s the average increase in a Board member’s profitability?” he asked. I gave him a couple of examples.
“And how quickly does that happen?” I explained that timeframes were different for different members.
“So what’s the average ROI on the first year’s cost of TAB?” You’ll have guessed by now that this was not a man who’d be putting pink tape on his hamstring. Not without some hard, empirical evidence.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that every conversation with a potential Board member ends up in one of two ways. We’re either talking return on investment or we’re talking pink tape. Broadly, people joining TAB fall into one of two categories. They either want to improve their business, or they want to improve themselves – and by inference, their business and their life.
My job is obvious. It’s to work out who I’m talking to as quickly as possible. And what’s true for me is true for everyone in business. Ultimately, we all have to make a sale and that means eventually we have to ask a key question. ‘So what would be the best day for delivery?’ ‘Would you like it in red or blue?’ That piece of advice was in the first sales book you ever read – and it remains true today.
The world may have moved on – and the older I get the more I realise that one of the best sales tools is the ability to listen. After all, listen long enough and most people will tell you exactly what they want.
But sooner or later (and I’m not afraid to use the word) you have to close the deal. You have to decide whether the person you’re speaking to wants facts and figures or pink tape. And you have to say, “So shall we get things started?”
Some of you may have noticed that those are the words I like to use. I’d be intrigued to hear what words you use – and whether you think different types of potential clients need different closing techniques.
Have a great weekend. For me, the bike is calling. Time for a workout. Pink tape to hold my ageing hamstrings together? Don’t be ridiculous. Baby blue if you must know…