This morning’s New York Times (11/3/13) includes an interview that Philip Galanes conducted with Dick Cavett and Alec Baldwin, in which they discussed the art of conducting a talk show interview on television. Their discussion reminded me – directly – of situations where we need to ditch the pitch while we are having conversations with customers.

Philip Galanes referred to an interview Dick Cavett did with Marlon Brando, back in the ’70s:

“He (Brando) didn’t want to give anything away. He spoke in monosyllables. But you just waited and waited, and finally, he opened up and gave the best interview I’ve ever seen with him.”

Cavett’s patient listening is a good lesson we can all learn from; have you ever had a situation where a customer wouldn’t open up and resisted sharing information with you? (See this recent article on the Ditch the Pitch Habits that includes the practice Say Less to Notice More.)

Galanes then directed another example to Alec Baldwin:

“I saw the same thing in your interview of Debra Winger, Alec. She launched a few stories, and I thought, She has no idea how to land this plane. But you gave her room and were so kind that she found her way to a beautiful point about processing disappointment that she wouldn’t have if you’d rushed her.”

Alec Baldwin responded, saying,

“What I find is that when you push or try to take something from them, it doesn’t work. But when you let it breathe, when you let your segments run a little longer, they give it to you. They give it to you if you let it be their choice.”

This is also powerful wisdom we can take into our customer conversations. If you let a conversation unfold at a pace that suits your customer, you can “let it be their choice,” i.e., you won’t have to sell because they will become ready to buy. (As I described in another recent article on the Ditch the Pitch Habits, Don’t Rush the Story.)

Dick Cavett then mentioned:

“advice Jack Paar gave to me: ‘Hey kid, don’t do interviews.’ I thought, What do I do then: sing, read poetry to the audience? ‘Don’t do interviews, kid: What’s your favorite this or that, like David Frost and his clipboard.’ He meant make it a conversation.”

More sage wisdom. Many sales methodologies focus on asking questions; yes, questions are incredibly important, but if a customer feels like you are interviewing them you will never break through to a rich, human dialogue that encourages the customer to open up and engage with you at a deep level. There is a big difference between an interview and a conversation.

Have patience to wait as a customer warms up and becomes ready to share information with you. Have patience to let your customer find their way in a conversation. Have patience to let your customer conversation unfold at a pace that suits your customer. You may not be a TV talk show host, but you can certainly use their tricks of the trade to engage your audience.

(Thanks to Joan Brett, a friend and professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, for sending me an email this morning to tell me that Dick Cavett and Alec Baldwin sounded like they were talking about Ditch the Pitch in the this article.)








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