And let's start right off with that does NOT mean we can BUY our way into a winning position. The lowest price equates to LOWEST value in most cases. I sadly see it every day. Our products and services are all world-class. Our deliveries are competitive. Our prices are in line with what the world sees as reasonable. We can leave it that and see how we do… Or NOT. As many times as I have said it, and it has in theory been “heard” it is worth repeating, and it is critical to absolutely understand, that it is our Value Added efforts at a client that are the difference-maker. It is what we DO that makes the only difference that truly matters. Now…value-added must be in the eyes of the client. How do you know what matters to them? Simple…ask them…. It goes like this… “Hey Karen (client), several of my long-term clients tell me that what they value the most from a supplier partner is their ability to bring me insight into my industry that I did not have. We find that there are significant similarities in the thousands of clients that we serve. Would it be of value to you if I offer up a few of the trends that we are seeing today in clients similar to you?" You can’t wing this one, you actually need to do the planning work and conversation simulation needed to actually bring value to the table.
Insight comes in many forms and for it to be of value to the client we need to understand their very specific challenge so that we can tailor our efforts towards helping them make better decisions, quicker. One barrier to the decision-making process is the client’s own ability to facilitate change in their own world. That can be a huge barrier that you CAN help them navigate. It requires a clear consensus creation within their organization and ALL of the people involved in the thinking around the issue. You CAN become a change agent to help them tackle that problem. It too starts with asking the client, “who all do you believe will be needed to make this happen?”. There is a LOT of science around change-facilitation. I choose to take it back to basics about caring about the people that we serve. As long as our motives are pure….helping them, then our actions do not have to be deeply steeped in psychology. Keep it simple and remember that we are aiming to help PEOPLE, not companies, INDIVIDUALS, not corporations. Start out of the blocks with caring!
SERVE endlessly, with
Dig deeply into each one of those 4 steps and create the PLAN/DO/REVIEW steps to bring the conversations to the surface. Simulate the conversations with your team. Tweak it all, and take it to the street with LOVE as the intent.
OK, LET’S ROLL!
I decided to go back to what I was writing years ago and see if it all still made sense. And from nearly 6 years ago here is what I found…. I love that even then the thinking of CUSP was at the core.
SERVE endlessly, with
OK. LET’s ROLL!
------------------------------- from Nov 2015-------------------------------
Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
As salespeople, our past success over several decades has been driven by data - data in the form of what we KNEW. Our success in “selling” was once based on the information that we had in our heads, the people that we knew, the contacts that we had, and the resources that we knew how to deploy.
Unfortunately, today significant portions of what once made us winners no longer matter, and many of us still can’t get over the ways of the past.
In a recent blog, a friend and fellow sales fanatic, Dave Brock wrote about how poorly many salespeople today prospect for clients. Check out his thoughts, they are great. I see the same thing today from EVERY single call and email that I get from salespeople who are wanting a piece of my time.
The message starts like this:
(We can stop right here because clearly my name was picked out of some database somewhere. The only person ever to call me by my full name was my Mother, when I was in trouble.)
“Mitchell, my name is Bob Blah and I would really like to have just 10 minutes of your time to tell you all about my blah, blah, blah. We are number one in blah, blah, blah. And we today we serve 159 of the Fortune 500 companies. Our blah, blah, blah, will help you sell more and solve all of your problems.”
I actually do not pick up my office phone any longer because these calls come all day, every day. It’s sad. If just once, one of these hard-working folks would call up and demonstrate that they actually cared about what was important to me, I would be delighted to call them back. But in the last decade that has never happened. Not even once.
To connect with the people in our lives, while selling or not, we have to CARE, and we have to care about THEM.
Our understanding of what is important to THEM, what their challenges are, and how we can help, must come before we ever get into a discussion about our products or services or anything to do with us.
Our clients will care about what we have to say, ONLY when we clearly demonstrate that we care about them FIRST. And it must be in that order. And it must be genuine and sincere. No games, no pitches, no opening and closing strategies, no handling of objections, no manipulation, no SELLING!
Start with caring about them as people, not as a part of a company. Do your homework about their world. Understand what you can about their issues in their company, their challenges in their industry, the risks that they face daily in innovation… And keep seeking to understand, because you care. Turn the understanding and caring around to focus on the person that you are serving.
You will find that those people that you care enough to serve well from their perspective will in fact care a great deal about what YOU have to say, in time. And from there the caring and information sharing explodes.
Your clients care because you care. You first!
Once upon a time, our value as salespeople was information. It actually still is, but the new reality is that to get to the point in a client relationship where your information is again valuable, you must enter into that relationship from the perspective of listening and diagnosing first, extensively, before you prescribe.
Sounds easy, but most salespeople that I interact with today are still pushing their stuff on me before they have ever stopped to understand me. Too bad. Their loss, and our gain, since we know the secret… CARE about the people who you serve.
Are you curious?
If you are a curious sort, just that question alone should have got your attention. The reality is that curiosity did NOT kill the cat… IT MADE THE SALE!
We have all had great conversations with people that flowed well and seemed to go on and on. And we have had the opposite, major flops. In the case of the latter, and in the realm of selling, it is almost always due to our own self-interest and an overwhelming burning desire to TELL our story to the potential client.
Now on its own, without understanding the client and setting up all of the connections that tactic will simply cause endlessly glazed-over eyes outcomes. Your time will come to talk about your stuff…be patient.
And create curiosity!
The genesis to great early on conversations is the layering of little bits of credible client-focused information between layers of curiosity creating questions or thoughts. A bit of contextually specific information, the posing of a curiosity creating question… tee up the next bit of new information… add in another curiosity provoking thought…repeat till done.
This all must be planned out in advance of the conversation. You will be best served if you can simulate it with a friend and get comfortable with the iterating style.
If you are not curious about your client it will show to them in your conversations. Our sales world is way too full of people that simply want to “tell you all about MY stuff”. And our clients know that and until you prove that you are different and provide value that they acknowledge you will be stuck in the short loop chat routine, going nowhere.
So, here is an idea… be curious about what unique outcomes your “stuff” can create with your client. Put your “stuff” value into their terms. This too will take some specific client prep work. So just do it! Dig in, find out what business challenges your client is facing, build some solutions to that, create some conversation simulations around the curiosity of how to communicate the value… and get it done!
All of this is a continuation of the grand theme of making the world a better place by serving. And of course, it looks like this…
SERVE endlessly, with
And, have a little fun while you are creating massive amounts of curiosity.
OK, LET’s ROLL!
The BIG 2 questions… they are not what you think they are!
My lovely wife and I raised 5 kids while we were both working. That was a long time ago. And ALL of them were quite inquisitive. The top question of every road trip was of course… “are we there yet?” But the dominant question, regardless of situation or timing was “WHY?”
So the road trip question, “are we there yet”, applies quite literally to the journey that we take when we seek to serve our clients. In the case of serving a client, it ends up that we oftentimes don’t really know the destination as the client does not know it either. So our inquiry must be continual and open and sincere. Sadly, most “sales” people already have a predefined destination in mind… having the client buy their “stuff”. If you will take the time to open the mind map with the client and explore where they “might” go, with your help, you will find the journey to be substantially rewarding for everyone. Start the trip, take out a map, look at possible destinations and sights to see along the way that may actually open up the alternative destinations. We can NEVER close our eyes to different paths than what we started down. If we are open and receptive the client will guide us. We need only to ask the question “are we there yet”? And keep looking for the next waypoint.
Now, the second question is a classic one. When the kids were young it was “why Daddy”. It morphed in the teen years to a bit more belligerent “WHY!!!”, often stated as a demand for justice. In our B2B world, “why” is magical, but only if used not as a tool, but as a legitimate desire to understand and explore deeper. Here again, sadly, what I see often is highly experienced sales souls seeking to get their message across so they spend an amazing amount of time pitching the client on “why” their solutions are superior and on “why” they should choose them vs the competition. These are folks that are stuck in a choice between the status quo and the dreaded big “C” word…change. Not knowing how to facilitate change within their own world they are desperately in need of someone that can help them tackle the ”change” question. They don’t need product features and benefits knowledge. They need help, real help, in understanding WHY they should change. And beyond that…. how to make it happen.
So, serve your clients by helping them understand WHY they need to change, WHY now, and WHY to your solution. Solutions come last. We all need a primer on this one… I suggest a book titled “Leading Change” by John P. Kotter.
So, get your WHY on, and truly look to serve your clients, to their benefit!
SERVE endlessly, with
OK, LET’S ROLL!
…in the words of one of the top organizational psychologists around today… Adam Grant.
Adam is a brilliant guy and a wonderful author. His book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, is a great piece about understanding. Give it a read.
In an opinion article that Adam just published in the NY Times titled “The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People,” he offers a great introduction to the thinking about helping others change. His final quote is “I no longer believe it’s my place to change anyone’s mind. All I can do is try to understand their thinking and ask if they’re open to some rethinking. The rest is up to them.”
And that is the cornerstone of what we have been exploring for the better part of the last 10 years. It has come to be known as I chat about it as the AND/ALSO pivot.
It starts with the clear understanding that YOU cannot change someone else’s mind. It is not possible. Only THEY can change their mind. That is the simple science of how it all works. While from time to time, with much verbal flogging, and verbose assaults you might get them to agree just to get you to shut up and go away, in fact, you cannot change what they think, even if they are wrong. Only the owner of the brain can control its workings.
So what does that mean to the salespeople in our space?
Quit trying to make your clients wrong about the decisions that they have made in the past and that control their actions today. STOP, it’s not working and you are only creating barriers that are really tough to break down.
INSTEAD… take time to understand how the client reached the decisions that they made. And under the circumstances, how much good sense that made. AND MEAN IT! No games here. You must really understand and empathize with reality.
Only when you clearly understand and say so honestly, do you open up doors for new additional thinking. It is at this time that you acknowledge their reality AND asks permission to ALSO put another thought on the table for them to consider. By openly acknowledging their reality as understandable you prevent the barrier to listening to another idea from being built. You have received a mini invitation to offer up a little bit of incremental wisdom that does not threaten their past thinking but openly ADDS to it.
Just like breaking a habit. You can’t kill a bad habit, you CAN add a new one that will be more powerful than the old one.
From there it is our place to serve the client in whatever choice they make and execute to excellence!
SERVE endlessly with,
OK, LET’s ROLL!