You see, when people think that someone is trying to "sell" them something, they often instinctively drop back into certain patterns of behavior. In a broad context, this often means that they lie. They strive to protect their true feelings. We've all done it. Ever go into a store looking specifically to make a purchase and, when a clerk approaches you and asks if there is anything specific they can help you find, you reply, "Oh no, I'm just looking." Well, technically, yes, you are "just looking" but yet you have protected yourself and not said "I am looking specifically for that bright green sweater you're standing in front of."
Uncaring or unscrupulous salespeople have perhaps perpetuated this behavior on the part of consumers. Consumers have come to feel like they must lie in order to protect themselves from the big bad salesperson who wants to force them into poverty and make sure that they and all their descendants must live in refrigerator boxes from here on out.
Most salespeople, though, really do care about their customers and prospects. They want to help guide them to a good purchasing decision. It is hard to do, though, when the consumer is fibbing to you.
Therefore, I teach salespeople and customer service people to dig a bit ... to search ... to try to figure out what the consumer is "really" telling them beyond the words they are saying. This often means hearing the consumer's question but resisting providing an immediate answer. Instead, you dig more deeply.
Let me give some examples of this from our business.
Someone calls and asks how durable our roofing is. Rather than launch into an immediate explanation of technical information, we might ask them questions like "Is durability important to you with your next roof?" or "Have you had problems in the past with roofs not lasting as long as you expected?" Their answers can reveal good information on a deeper level that helps us understand what they are really saying -- what they are really seeking.
If a customer asks if they can walk on our roof, they might really be asking whether they need to get up on our roof to do maintenance. We need to come back and ask a question like "Are there areas of your roof that you have to walk on?" and see what they say.
If they ask us about warranties, they might really be telling us that they have had warranty issues with other products. Or that they don't like always being "sold" extended warranties for purchases they make. Or they might somehow be asking if our product will cause a hot attic that may shorten the roof's life.
If they ask us about lightning, they might really be asking whether our product will keep their family safe.
If they ask us for the name of their local dealer, they are probably really saying "I just wnat to end this call and here's how I will do it. Chances are I won't call the person you refer me to but instead I will ask at my local home center or ask my "remodeling guy" about metal roofing sometime." We then have to stress that our products are available only through our independent dealers and we also follow up with "By the way, I speak to your dealer a couple of times a week. Shall I just have them call you?"
People who genuinely care about those with whom they are working will see their way through the Buyer and Seller Dance. They will follow up questions with questions of their own, getting closer and closer to the root of what the prospect is really saying.
I wonder if there aren't some real cross-overs to this subject when we are sharing our faith with others. What are people really saying when they express frustration or fear or difficulty in their lives? Are they actually searching for something ... trying to figure out what you have that they don't ... trying to determine whether your life as one transformed in Christ is "really" any different from theirs?
This might be a subject for another blog but, we've all seen it -- if someone feels they are being "sold" religion, they slip into a defensive, protective mode. Heck, many of us probably lived much of our Pre-Christian life that way. There are good ways to break through that facade and get at what the person is really saying ... caring and Spirit-led ways ... rather than aggressive force-feeding of tehnical information.
Brealing up the Busyer and Seller Dance can lead to greater fruit for Christianity the same as it can for the professional consultative salesperson.