conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Tale of a Communication Fail that Lost a Sale

with 2 comments

We stood looking at the broken window. I wanted an estimate. But the window salesman was unspooling a monologue about the wood in windows these days: something about 80-year old trees, then 50-year old trees and 35-year old trees. Then came sealant rates, the attributes of vinyl, why his company of craftsman were utterly dependable and more than just sales guys, and then another round of features so precise and minute I would need to plot them on a spreadsheet to begin to understand them. Most of what he said was entirely unverifiable—especially at the rate he was spewing it out.

The sales pitch is dead. Long live dialogue!

The sales pitch is dead. Long live dialogue!

I suddenly realized it’s been some time since I’ve heard one of these old-school sales pitches. And I remembered why: I hate listening to sales pitches. I’ve been writing about the switch from monologue to dialogue so much that perhaps I had convinced myself the sales pitch was dead.

Not so.

For all the reasons I’ve been writing about, from lack of curiosity to the absence of questions to simple lack of insight into his audience, his sales pitch did not address my central question: Will you give me an estimate on replacing this window and, even more, can I trust you to do the job effectively?

It’s too bad, really. I used body language to say “I’m not interested” and “I don’t believe a word you are saying.” And two or three times directed him to the question of the estimate, even so, the pitch soon came tumbling out again at full speed. I despaired of getting back to work. He seemed to not get that the pitch was not working, nor that it was affecting me negatively. Maybe he didn’t care. He clearly seemed to not care that I didn’t care.

Even Mrs. Kirkistan, in later conversations with the window pitchman, found herself attempting to cut through the monologue to force an estimate. In fact, long before the actual estimate came, we decided we could not trust this guy or his company.

Two things about the pitchman and his monologue:

  • Dialogue is a way of establishing trust. It proves someone is listening. By way of contrast, monologue proves someone is not listening. Do I really want to work with someone who is not listening?
  • Feature-laden promises delivered at a rate that makes them unverifiable (even if we cared, which we didn’t) have “scam” written all over them. Maybe the pitchman and his company were legit. His monologue led me directly away from that conclusion.

 Dialogue helps disperse skepticism.


Written by kirkistan

October 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Excellent post! I agree. Why do companies still try this tactic? And how do they sell anything? I don’t get it. We are not stupid. People want to be heard.

    I think in the next few years companies that listen, really pay attention to people, will absolutely stand out. Already happening…

    Tim Bursch

    November 12, 2009 at 4:38 am

  2. Tim, over time, we’ll all have less patience with the pitch.



    November 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

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