When I was working as an insurance advisor, I did plenty of cold call. If you are unfamiliar with the word, it means leaving the comfort of your office, and going out to the streets to find new potential customers. I did cold calling at industrial estates, going door to door, asking to talk to the SME bosses to share about latest financial news. It was quite a scary process because of the sheer number of rejections you would face.
I was trained to always start with small talks to build rapport. But not everyone like that. One common response I got was, “I am busy, and I have met many agents before, what do you want to sell me?”. Another common response was, “Please skip these, I know many insurance agents and I have many products, what new plans do you have?”
It was very natural to give in to their requests, to just tell them what they asked for, to just open my presentation folder to “start selling”. But that was a rookie mistake which I committed many times. The moment I did that, the person in front of me would immediately perceive me as a typical insurance salesperson, who just want to push through a sale.
I have learnt from observing my managers during their sales process that good advisors always resisted the temptation to “get right down to business”. Once a manager even kept his folders into his briefcase when a prospect said this to him. He wanted to send the signal that he wants to build relationship before talking about business. It had been proven many times, that the “relationship first” approach resulted in better understanding, more open communication, and eventually, bigger sales.
I see a parallel in teaching. Relationship comes first before transfer of knowledge. Yet it was not always easy and intuitive to do that.
The skeptical SME bosses probably had been disappointed by some insurance advisors before, and they were just too ready to put me into the box of “just another salesy insurance agent”. Until I start to show them that I want to build relationship first by asking good questions and showing that I care, the conversation would go nowhere.
Many students who were referred to me had bad experience with learning Maths, or with tuition in general. One student hid under her dining table when I came to her house for the first time. Another was crying and holding on to her grandma when I arrived for the first lesson.
It seemed straightforward, but not natural, to start teaching right away, during the first lesson, right? But good and experienced teachers would tell you that that approach will not work. When you start to do that, you immediately get boxed into the “typical teacher” or “typical tuition teacher” category in the students’ mind. If they have bad experience with teachers or tutors before, all their past baggage would come back and be, unfairly, associated with you.
Good salespeople, and good teachers alike, understand that you must resist the temptation to “get down to business”, and perhaps say, “Let’s put the sales presentation / lesson plan aside for a moment. Please tell me more about you.”