You have heard of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, right? Well, we are not going there today, so relax. We are changing this topic to Ask, Don’t Tell.
This is a true story. There was a humanitarian group that went from Europe to Africa to help a very poor village. There was a lush green valley right next to a river in this village, yet they had not planted anything. Ernesto Sirolli, who was leading the group, was dumbfounded. He told the chief of the village that they were going to teach this tribe how to grow tomatoes and zucchini not only for their own consumption, but so they could sell it and help the economy of the village.
They brought seeds from Italy of the finest tomatoes and zucchini. When they asked the tribesmen to help plant the seeds, they got resistance. Nobody wanted to work! What were they going to do? Well, they decided that they would PAY them to help plant the seeds. Oddly enough, only a few stepped up even then to help. But, determined that they were going to do this for the village, they got it done. The seeds were planted and because the land was so fertile, it grew very quickly. The tomatoes and zucchini looked like they were on steroids they were so big, all because of the rich soil!
Ernesto and his team were so proud of what they had done! Then one morning, before the crop had been harvested, Ernesto woke up to a horrible sight. The entire crop had been wiped out! You can almost see him with that Home Alone look on his face (hopefully you are not too young to remember that movie). He asked the tribe chief what happened, and he said in a matter of fact manner, “200 hippos came out of the river and ate the crop and stomped and pooped on the rest of it. That is why we don’t plant anything there.”
Ernesto was beside himself, “WHY did you not TELL us that?!!!”
The Chief simply said, “You did not ask.”
Talk about a hard lesson to learn. Wow. You might be shaking your head right now and thinking, “What a knucklehead.” But look in the mirror. Are you seriously telling me you have never done anything like this? Maybe not on this grand scale, but how about when you make a presentation to someone? Are you so busy telling them how great your product or service is that you have no idea what they really need?
Instead of telling and selling, we need to be sharing and caring. We need to shut up and listen. We need to ask good questions about who they are, what issues they face, what things they fear. What do they need from their perspective? We need to share THEIR vision, look through THEIR eyes, then empathize!
Once we know them and truly show we care about them, we can serve them. Serving their need is not selling them. If you are have to convince them to buy, you missed the mark. If the Hippos ate your crop, you missed the mark.
There was a game when I was growing up called Hungry Hungry Hippos. (Kids these days have no appreciation for the toys WE had when we grew up…we have come a long long way with toys, Kids). It was a silly game really, and all about greed. Don’t be one of the Hungry Hungry Hippos either.