Pitching Mr. Know-It-All

Sometimes when you pitch your products or services, you will encounter Mr. Know-It-All. No matter what you ask about his company, he will say he already has it solved. You can tell you are dealing with a “know it all” by his demeanor, often arrogant and sometimes even belligerent – you can see his colleagues reluctant to go to battle with him. His subordinates stay quiet for fear of being ridiculed.mr know-it-all

In the early days of the Internet when I was building my first company, GovCon, a business development portal for government contractors, I was asked to present some technical options to the CEO of a 1,000-person firm. He brought my company in because we had a very strong reputation for helping government contractors like his. He had the reputation of being tough as nails and I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting.

As we started the dialog, I asked about their issues and was met very quickly with Mr. Know-It-All responses. He had a quip for every turn I took. So I finally asked him this:

  • I can see that you have a lot of these issues in good hands. So, what were you hoping to address by having me come here today?

This completely turned the tables. Instead of shooting down everything I said, this question gave him the opportunity to stop attacking and start opening up. At the same time, it acknowledged his need for showing off that he had most of his issues already under control.

Some people delude themselves into thinking that the solution they have implemented is the cat’s meow. If you know you can offer a better option, use this two-part question set to diffuse a Mr. Know-It-All encounter:

  • How is that working out for you?
  • Are you getting all of the results you want from that solution?

These questions usually force them to acknowledge their problem areas, giving you the chance to delve deeper into ways you can help. If you have several people in the meeting, you will see some of them bring up topics on their minds.

When you start asking the right questions, people will open up to you because quite often nobody has ever asked them before. This approach allows you to find opportunities and turn prospects into clients by offering ways to make their businesses better. You become a trusted partner, not just a vendor.

Listening Questions That Build Relationships

We’ve all been there. You have lunch with a business acquaintance you met at last week’s networking event. All they talk about is themselves, their company and what they are selling – as if you are the ideal customer and were praying to hear their product pitch.

These people come across as pushy. They ask only superficial questions and when you answer they try to turn your points into fodder for pitching features in their product. They make incorrect presumptions about the problems you face.  They only seem interested in themselves.listening questions

After your lunch, they may or may not follow up – surprisingly, or not, many sales people never follow up with even the warmest of leads. Either way, you leave with the feeling that you don’t really want to do business with this person.

Listen, Don’t Talk

If you’ve felt this way before about someone else, take note of your own dialog when you meet someone in a similar setting. If you’re too busy talking, you aren’t listening. Not everyone is a prospect.

Before you talk about yourself, ask your acquaintance questions designed to get them to talk. Here are some examples:

  • What kind of problems do you help your clients solve?
  • What are the top 3 issues you face in growing your business?
  • If you were able to give your average client a single piece of advice, what would it be?
  • What makes a client pick your company over your competition?

These questions will help you understand what is important to them. By understanding their motivations, you will have a better understanding of how you can help – if at all.  Don’t pitch your idea or product. Use phrases like these:

  • Have you thought about…
  • What’s been your experience with trying…
  • Have you seen a change in ROI in the current method you use for…
  • What was your team’s reaction to…

You are not selling. You are listening. When they feel that you understand them, they will be receptive to your pitch. Start by saying something like this:

  • You know, I think I might have a solution for…
  • I think I have a contact that you might want to meet…
  • I’ve got an idea that might help…

Offer to help them solve their issues. Don’t ask for the sale.

If you help them, the sale will come.