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Creating Discomfort

by David Brock on July 26th, 2013

My friend, Tim Ohai, wrote a brilliant guest post today:  Cooperation Is For Losers.  While the entire post is great, one sentence struck me, “You have to be disruptive to the point of discomfort……”

That sentence probably makes many of you uncomfortable, it runs counter to what so many opinions we may have about selling.  We want to build relationships, we want the customer to trust us, we don’t want to rock the boat……

But having a “comfortable” customer is the worst thing possible for sales.  If the customer is experiencing no discomfort, they have no reason to change, no reason to engage in a buying process.  The absence of discomfort is the kiss of death to all sales people.

If  we want the customer to change, we have to be disruptive to the point of creating discomfort.  They have to view the pain of change to be less than the consequences of not changing.  Otherwise we are wasting their time and our time.

There are words here that are undoubtedly causing you some discomfort.

Being “disruptive,”  is a word that sends shivers down the spine of most people, including sales people.  Being disruptive doesn’t mean being impolite.  It doesn’t mean being pushy.  It doesn’t mean being overly aggressive, but it does probably mean we have to be assertive.  Being disruptive is about getting customers  to think differently.  It’s getting them to consider there might be a better way of achieving their goals.

Creating discomfort, is not about antagonizing the customer or pressuring them.  It’s about creating the “pain.”  It’s about making them dissatisfied with the status quo, helping them see things can be better and creating a sense of urgency around achieving this.

Insight is all about being disruptive and creating discomfort.  It’s about providing the customer ideas, it’s about showing them opportunities they may be missing, how they can grow, how they can better serve their customers, how they can be more efficient, how they can be better.

We have to disrupt the customer’s current thinking.  We have to help them become uncomfortable with the status quo.  Doing nothing has to become unacceptable to the customer.

We are always dealing with disruption and discomfort, though much of it may be unconscious.  Often, the customer has recognized a problem, they know they need to change, so they are already managing the disruption and discomfort.

Sometimes it’s through our Insight we create the urgency and drive to change.

However it happens, selling is is about disruption and discomfort.  If we  are uncomfortable with this, we’ll never make the customer comfortable with this.

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3 Comments
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    Dave, has been asking some deeper questions on ‘insights’, ‘challenges’ and ‘discomfort’ for some time,
    he has been offering a wide range of his and others views.

    This has been very constructive.

    It is of interest to read responses.

    In part there is broad based agreement, the Value a salesperson has to bring today is more than a ‘Talking Brochure’.

    This was highlighted over 40 years ago by Neil Rackham, and evolved into SPIN-FAB, Consultative or Solution Selling.

    In discussing these we often have a difficulty with the Semantics: “Creating” Problems or Need “Creation” for the Customer, then the offering of a ‘Solution’. Recently, we have talked about “Creating” Value for Customers, the Value Proposition. [With its incumbent risk of becoming a Talking Brochure, again]

    While helping my Clients adopt an Insight based Selling approach, it has been found easier and much more effective to abandon the thought of “Creating” anything.

    Rather, we demonstrate:
    LATENT Problems, LATENT Needs and LATENT Value.

    A ‘latent’ problem really does exist in the Customer’s environment, we don’t have to ‘create’ discomfort, we simply offer an insight which makes the problem visible.

    Offering insight is, no more discomforting than discovering and developing Problems a la SPIN-FAB.
    The insight [which may be problem or opportunity based]
    is done to provoke Customer Engagement.

    We know from a wide range of Behavioural Economics research about Buyer’s “Loss Bias”

    “Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion

    The Challenger Sale research highlighted that the difference between Challengers and Relationship Builders was, in part, the acceptance [to the point of agreement] of the status quo.

    Challenging the status quo, with a well formed insight is a clear behavioural difference between the two sales types. And gives the ‘insight bringer’ measurably more success.

    I have found this series of blogs, and the ideas presented, really useful in implementation of insight selling.

    • Brian, I really like your comment. I think most of the time, if we create, it’s creating awareness of what’s already there, but what many may be blind to. It’s really those latent problems, needs, value. Insight is a process by which we articulate it, bring it to the front of mind, and help the customers take action.

      Separately, these posts have benefited tremendously from your active participation and comments. Thanks so much!

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