"What are you selling?"
I know it is a bit crude, possibly rude, but I get a lot of phone calls where we have to go through the "beating around the bush" dance for a few minutes and I am always friendly about the question and not necessarily closed-minded. I ask within a few seconds, "What are you selling?"
And I try to let the folks on the other end of the line know that I don't think "selling" is a dirty word.
I just want to know.
Is it an idea, a product, a service, or a "gift?" Do they want an appointment, a commitment, or an opinion? I want people to know that they have a legitimate self-interest in calling me and that I know it and that it is OK. It makes for a honest conversation. Even if their self-interest is the sense of satisfaction in doing a good thing, let us put our cards on the table.
I don't need to know their profit margin, but I know that they cannot stay in business without one and if they cannot stay in business, I don't want to do business with them because their after-care will soon dry up. I want to spend my money with people who know how to make a fair profit.
Does that make sense?
I need to process this call quickly because I am probably in the middle of another project, perhaps even a bright idea that will never pass through my mind again and needs to be captured, interrogated, and released.
Win my goodwill by respecting my time. I am inclined to give both in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Maybe you are selling an idea. That is good. You will be measuring profit differently. If you are selling the gospel, it may be out of sheer gratitude for what you have already received and love for humanity. If you are selling a social or political idea, your motive may be that you really believe society will be improved and your family's life will be better if I adopt your way of thinking.
Let's cut to the chase. I have no problem with the fact that you are selling something. I have a problem with you denying it.
And don't be surprised if I try to sell you something while I have you on the line.