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Focus On The Customer, Magic Happens!

by David Brock on June 23rd, 2015
customer experience design

Several weeks ago, I did a deal review with a client.   It was a very large deal, important to my client.  The sales person is an outstanding sales person–one of the top performers in the organization.

As I looked at the notes on the deal, the sales person had a number of good conversations with people in the organization.  He had a pretty good understanding of what they were trying to do.  He was laser focused on demonstrating how his solution was the best in helping the customer achieve the goal.

He was trying to reach the decision-maker and had hit a road block.  He’d made call after call, sent email after email.  He was very frustrated, he was normally accustomed to getting into whoever he needed to see at an account.  But this particular customer was just not responding to any of the creative offers he made—lunch, a demo, meeting with product managers, an extended loaner of a system—nothing would drive a response.

What was worse, is the people he had dealt with before started going dark.

As I looked at the email chain, each email was a variation on the same theme, “Let me tell you how wonderful my product is.”

The emails were written much more artfully and each offered an enticement about learning more about the product.  But there were no responses.

In the review, I started asking my usual questions, “What are they trying to achieve, why are they doing this, what are the consequences of doing nothing, how does this fit into their overall strategy/priorities/vision, what are the personal wins for each person involved in the decision, ……..”

The sales person thought he knew the answers, but struggled.  He realized that he had jumped from “discovery,” to “pitching” before he really understood all the stuff critical to his sales strategy and winning the deal.

We decided to do a little research.  It took just a few minutes–we went to the company website.  We started understanding more of their strategies, priorities, and what might be driving the need to change.  We went to google, pretty quickly we found a number of press releases, speeches, presentations the company had given about their strategies and priorities.  This particular project and it’s impact on the company were mentioned several times.  In fact, the key executive we had been trying to reach had been interviewed a number of times–including his priorities around this particular project.

We went to LinkedIn and started looking at the profiles of each person involved in the project.  We were trying to discern their biases, motivations, experience with these solutions, and the personal wins.  Again, the profile of the key executive was rich with information.  He had posted a number of presentations and video’s in his profile.  It was clear the executive was a real visionary, he was driven to achieve certain things in the organization, he had a strong strategy.

I know what you are thinking, why didn’t the sales person do any of this up front?  He really should have, in hindsight he recognized the error.  He had fallen into the trap too many of us fall into—listening for what he wanted to hear, rather than really trying to understand what the customer was trying to achieve.

To his credit, once we started to see the problem, he came up with a new strategy.

Through the research, we had a pretty good idea of what was going on, but he still needed to reconfirm everything with the customer–understanding their strategy, priorities, the views of each person involved.

He wrote a very short email to the decisionmaker.  In that email he indicated his understanding of the key issues–but posed some very good questions about what they were trying to achieve.  In one sentence, he explained the experience my client had helping similar organizations on this issue.  He finished the email, leveraging some of the executives quotes on his vision and the importance of the project in implementing the strategy.  Then he asked for a meeting.

Late last night, I got an email from him, it was titled, “Some Magic Happened!”

He had forwarded me the response from the executive.

It was the kind of response any sales person dreams of.  The customer was impressed with the knowledge and understanding of his and his company’s issues/strategies/priorities.  He was intrigued to learn more about how my client might help them address the issues.  He was flattered by the reference to his quotes and visions.  He was eager to meet, share more about what they were trying to do and learn more about my client’s ability to help.

After weeks of emails and phone calls focused on “Let me tell you about my product,” shifting the approach to focus entirely on the customer and the individual had completely changed things.

The door is now open.

The sales person has a long way to go, but he now has a strategy that puts the customer and what they want to achieve at the center of everything he is doing with them.

This stuff works!  It’s not trickery, manipulation, or any great sales technique.  It’s simply focusing on the customer, understanding what they want to do, learning from them–then helping them learn.

It’s really that simple!

Take a look at your most important stalled deal.  Do some research on both the company and the individuals.  Try answering for yourself the questions I posed earlier in this post.  Then go to the customer and ask them, let the words come from their mouths, probe, verify, validate, quantify.  Be interested in them and what they want to achieve.

Magic happens!

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  1. What’s amazing about this Dave, is that anyone would find it amazing. 😉

    Meant humorously; not a poke. But this is the stuff that so many of us have been talking about for so long. I just wrote a post about crafting sales value propositions from a buyer-oriented perspective, where i linked to posts that you, Tamara Schenk, and Brian McIver have written about co-creating value and value construction. I did that, based on something I’m working on, but also based on some observations I’ve had in classrooms recently, which surprised me. It’s amazing how self-focused we still are, and how empathy is not always natural nor hard-wired for sales people.

    Anyway, all that to say, great post!

    • Like you Mike, I’m constantly amazed. We preach this stuff until we are blue in the face, but then someone tries it and is amazed. This Sh*t works! There’s too much evidence, so it’s pure craziness that people aren’t doing this for each and every deal.

  2. Dave,this story just made me rethink a customer interaction, and how I could have been more empathetic looking at the world from the customer’s eyes instead of jumping to the solution. I guess knowing and doing are two different things. Look at how many diets there are, and yet we all know we need to eat right and exercise, but the ice cream tastes so good. Just like retraining our brains that healthy food is better for you, sellers need to retrain their brains about the benefit of enlightened self interest. We know it, but a story like this makes us feel it.

    • Thanks Michael, you’ve hit on an interesting issue–one that I’m continually frustrated by–knowing versus doing. Anyone who’s been paying attention to selling to the changes in how customers buy, the changes in markets, etc knows what they should be doing. But in spite of knowing these things, we consistently fail to do them.

      I don’t know what drives this, whether it’s a lack of personal courage, leadership, discipline, etc. When we understand this, we’ve broken the code to consistent success.

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