Tips from a former museum educator on customer engagement
If you have ever walked into the Art Institute of Chicago, you cannot ignore A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, painted by George Seurat in 1884. It is a massive oil on canvas over 6 feet tall and 10 feet across. Up close, you will see that Seurat painted with tiny dabs of color. But as you step away, the human eye merges the dots to create a vibrant glimmer of color and light. It is a true masterpiece.
But how do you keep your audience engaged? What is to stop a museum guest from walking up and thinking, “Huh, neat…. moving on!”
In the museum world, curators and educators want to help audiences grasp the impact of an exhibit. Ideally, they hope that the museum guest will spend time in an exhibit, stay engaged, and leave the museum with a heightened sense of culture and purpose. This is a currency of time and energy, and it is harder to cultivate than you would think.
Similarly, your business is a work of art. You have invested countless hours building up your product and/or service and you know it is filled with value for the world. But when it comes to presenting your product and/or service, how do you keep your audience engaged? How do you help them to see the value of your work, and ways in which your work can have a positive impact on them, all while creating an enriching experience?
The goal of your sales team is not much different from the goals of a museum. When engaging with a client, you want them to spend time with your product, stay engaged, and leave the sales call with a sense of purpose and greater knowledge. And just like the art patron returning to the museum to see their favorite painting, the sales prospect evolves into a customer through engagement.
With that in mind, here are three pieces of advice from a former museum educator on how to build engagement:
1. Know your audience
In museums, people come for many different reasons. They could be tourists, donors, scholars, or parents accompanying the school field trip. They will all see art differently based on their circumstances. Likewise, your sales prospect could arrive in a sales call for a wide range of reasons. Perhaps they are early adopters of tech and want to know the next best product. Maybe they are struggling with a problem and need a solution fast. Or perhaps their boss didn’t want to take the meeting and now they got stuck sitting in when they would rather be doing something else.
Look for clues as to what brought your prospect to the meeting and craft your messaging accordingly. You want to provide a personalized experience. Ask about their goals. Understand their specific needs so that you can address their business goals by offering personalized solutions. Begin a conversation that will move the relationship forward. If you jump right into your sales pitch without acknowledging the individual circumstances bringing you into the meeting, you are likely to see glazed eyes.
2. Ask questions
In a museum, the fastest way to end a conversation is to teach facts. If an educator walked up to you and told you the painting was painted in 1884 with a new style called pointillism, you would likely respond with a pleasant “thank you” and move on. Similarly, just saying your sales pitch out loud isn’t enough to engage a future customer.
A better tactic is to ask questions. When observing art, a great question is, “what do you notice about the painting?” Their answer might surprise you. You can then ask them to step closer to the painting and ask what they notice then. These are called divergent and convergent questions and they can also be powerful in a sales meeting.
A divergent question can diverge into different answers and reveal valuable information about the speaker. In business, we can ask “What are the greatest challenges your business is facing?” or “what are your team’s top priorities?” Similarly, we can ask convergent questions. These are questions that converge around an idea. “What are your team’s top safety priorities?” or “What are your top safety challenges?” If your goal is to discover more about your prospect’s intent, it is great to start with divergent questions and move them forward with more focused convergent questions. When people spend the energy to answer questions from their own experience, they are far more likely to be invested in the conversation and be open to new information.
3. Know where you want to go before you start.
There is nothing more painful than an open-ended conversation with a stranger. A great museum educator goes into a conversation knowing what they want to teach. Convergent questions can be selected based on what outcome you are hoping to achieve. If done correctly, you can achieve a meaningful interaction in less than 5 minutes.
The same holds true for a sales call. Granted, the end goal can differ depending on if you are talking to a CEO or a low-level associate. But having a target outcome in mind can help determine the questions you want to ask. And the final goal should always be a call to action. You always want to move prospects forward in your sales pipeline, so knowing the next best step before you start your discussion can help focus your engagement strategy.
Whether engaging someone about art or your business, the hope is that the conversation ends with increased engagement and inspiration to do more. While the art patron may go into the world inspired to see more beauty, the sales prospect leaves a successful meeting feeling like they can take action to improve their circumstances. Building engagement through these personal connections are a great way to keep your sales pipeline filled with promising outcomes.
Click here to learn more about how The Endurance Groups builds sales results through prospect engagement.
Dave McLellan is a business development consultant with The Endurance Group. Dave holds an MBA from Marquette University. Prior to working in the field of technology sales, Dave was a museum director and educator at organizations such as The EarlyWorks Museum, Alabama Constitution Hall Park, the Milwaukee Zoo, the Bronx Zoo and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.