When you’re in sales (and, as author Dan Pink espouses — everyone is in sales today) — one of the key points you must decipher is whether the customer is ready to hear your pitch.

When I worked on campus, we had to convince students of the value of an Actuarial Science degree before we could sell them on ours. A car salesperson must determine if the customer is set on the idea of a new car or whether they first have to persuade them that it’s time to buy. A church must have people ready to receive God before they can articulate the distinctiveness of their congregation. An alcoholic needs to acknowledge that they need help before they can hear options for recovery. A nonprofit must ascertain if people are in a mindset to give before articulating their specific needs.

Too often, we jump in with enthusiasm about the idea, program, or service itself without priming the pump and setting a context. We overwhelm the potential customer with details before their brain has signaled readiness to hear them.

Whether you are selling a concept or a product, start your pitch by asking questions. Learn where the customer is mentally and determine where to begin. Receptiveness will be much greater if you’re both aligned about the beginning.

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