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How Interested In Your Customer Are You?

by David Brock on May 7th, 2019

It was one of those big opportunities. It would make or break the following quarter for the sales team. The sales team had “qualified” the customer and were midway through the “discovery” process.

“What are they trying to do,” I asked.

“Well, they are trying to buy a software platform, we are a strong contender,” replied the eager sales person.

“Why are they doing that?” I asked.

“Well dugghhhhh, they need a solution like ours,” replied the sales person, looking at me impatiently.

“I know that, but why? What is driving the need for the new solution, what are they trying to do?” I asked.

The frustrated sales person responded, “I don’t know, but I really don’t care. They are looking for a solution. I just need to understand their needs, schedule a demo, and, hopefully, close the deal mid next quarter. I know they are considering us and a couple of competitors. All I have to do is beat them!”

I wish this were an unusual story, unfortunately, it’s too common. The focus of the sales person wasn’t really on the customer. It was on beating the competition and getting a PO.

Customers recognize this, as well. They recognize the selective listening–listening only for cues to pitch our products.

They recognize that we aren’t asking the right questions. That we aren’t probing to understand what’s really happening and what it means to them personally and professionally.

They recognize our disinterest because we haven’t taken the time to understand their markets, their business, their strategies.

They look for help, but we aren’t being helpful.

We expect the customer to be interested in us, but through our lack of knowledge, our lack of understanding, our absence of empathy, we are displaying our disinterest in them.

While a be trite and old, “To be interesting, we have to first be interested.”

How interested are you?

Afterword: The skill underlying the concept of being interested is curiosity? Are you developing your skills in being curious?


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4 Comments
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    Great post, as usual Dave.
    Its not that they lack interest, its that they simply don’t know how to develop a Needs ‘Conversation’.

    One of the simplest ways is WHY, WHY, WHY?
    it will get you into all kinds of areas, were Needs Discovery and Needs Development, become the foundations of strong Value Propositions.

    What of the Opposite,
    Sales people over identifying with the Customer?

    • The “5 Why’s” is a classic and always helpful, both to us and the customer.

    • Joel Lyles permalink

      | Sales people over identifying with the Customer?

      I’ve worked with a couple of other newbie reps who never did sales but came from a human resources / judicial and law enforcement / project management background and I notice when you ask them what’s going on with a deal they speak in terms of what’s going on with the customer rather than the sales process.

      Their details might not be relevant to closing the deal, but it’s still clear they’re thinking of the deal in terms of the customer’s perspective. It’s a laudable instinct and one that should be nurtured.

  2. Dave Olson permalink

    Seek first to understand and then to be understood – most often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Who says everything is changing all the time?

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