A Sales Lesson From Hunter And Garcia

Every once in a while I like to make business points based on something I pull out of music. As you might be able to tell from a few of my previous posts, often those lessons come from the music of The Grateful Dead. Today is no exception.

Robert Hunter

The song “High Times” was written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia and was in and out of their concert rotation beginning in 1969. It has nothing to do with drugs despite the title but as you’ll see it has quite a lot to do with sales.  This is the first verse:

You told me goodbye
How was I to know
You didn’t mean goodbye
You meant please don’t let me go

While the song is about loss and is a plea for a significant other to come back, there’s also a message for anyone who is selling something.  That message is about listening for the meaning behind the words.  In this case “goodbye” meant “hold me tighter, convince me to stay.”   How often do we hear “no” and not understand, as marketers or salespeople  that “no” means “not yet”?  It’s not an invitation to walk away.  “Too expensive” doesn’t mean cut your price.  I take it to mean “show me more value.”

The ability to listen and to read the meaning behind the actual words is a critical skill we probably don’t teach or practice often enough.  Someone who asks a slew of questions is demonstrating a keen interest to buy.  We need to probe to find out what is keeping them from satisfying that need.  We need to hear meaning and not just what was said.

“How was I to know” is a pretty easy question to answer but getting the meaning isn’t in many cases.  Does that make sense?

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