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Putting Aside Our Agenda For The Customer’s

by David Brock on July 29th, 2016

Gary Peyrot asked a great question recently,  He had read, “What Would Happen If We Saw Things The Way Our Customers Saw them?

He ask, “How to you approach the solution from the customer’s point of view, ……do you need to purposefully put aside your own agenda?”

It’s a question that actually hits to the root of the challenge every sales person faces.  We’re driven by our goals and objectives.  We have the responsibility for generating revenues for our company–selling products and solutions.  But I think many sales people are conflicted when we talk about not focusing on your products and what you sell, but rather on the customer and what they are trying to achieve.

Deep inside each of us is the question, “If I only focus on the customer, how am I going to achieve my goals?”  Of in Gary’s question, how do we put aside our own agenda—when that’s the most important thing to us?!?

If we are doing things right, with the right customers, at the right time, there is actually no conflict in our agenda, which is to sell something, and the customer’s agenda which is to solve a problem or address an opportunity.

If we are doing things right, with the right customers, at the right time, our goals are actually aligned.

The problem is  the majority of the time we aren’t doing this, we’re not aligned with the customer, consequently there is a conflict between our goals and the customer’s.  We’re perceived as just pushing our products, wasting the customer’s time, or not concerned with the things they face.

There is no doubt, as sales professionals our highest priority has to be in achieving our goals–hitting our numbers.  We have not business being charitable in “helping our customers fix their problems and address their opportuniities.”

But how do we do this, how do we align the customer’s agenda and priorities with ours?  How do we address the customer’s agenda without putting aside our own?

I ‘ve taledk about this quite a bit in the bast, but here goes.

First, we have to be very clear about the problems we are the best in the world at solving.  It’s easily said, but not often done.We are typically trained and talk about our products and solutions in terms of what they do, not the customer problems they solve.  We don’t have a deep understanding of those problems, so we don’t know how to engage customers and prospects in discussions about them and the impacts on their businesses.  We tend to “drink the Kool Aid” on our own products, not understanding specifically how we solve the problem and where we are the best in solving that problem.  We tend to engage in some level of wishful thinking about how well we address the problem–partially because we haven’t defined the problem well.  There is always a set of problems that we are the best at–we just don’t take the time to understand and define this space.

You’re probably questioning this a little, perhaps thinking, “there are other solutions that are just as good or better.”  Let’s look at an analogy.  Some years ago, gigantic industrial products company company had the stated goal of, “We will be number 1 in each market we participate in.  If we are not, we will divest those business units.”  You can imagine the concerns of in the business units within the company.  Let’s imagine they offered solutions to financial services industries.  It’s very difficult to be number 1 in the financial services industries–it’s so broad, with so many diverse requirements.  As a result, the business unit leaders started breaking things down–commercial banking, retail banking, investment banking, wealth management, insurance in all its flavors, equities trading, bond trading, other financial instruments,….. and I could go on.  Business unit leaders started saying, “What part of this industry are we/can we be the best in.”  It could have been as narrow as “We are number 1 in high risk, high velocity hedge funds operating in Europe.”

This actually bring us to the second critical issue in aligning our agendas with the customers’.  We have to define, “Who has those problems?”  This is ruthlessly focused on understanding the specific characteristics of the markets, enterprises, and personas within those enterprises.  Nor organization in the world can address all the problems of everyone.  Even within a certain market, industry segment there are differing characteristics of the “enterprise.”  In some areas, we may be great an global or very large firms, but terrible at SMB’s in the same industry.  And within this, there are certain functions/personas that have those problems or care about them.

All this really focuses on defining our sweet spot (s).

The third critical issue within that sweet spot is the customer has to want to solve that problem now!  Even within our sweet spots–we know these customers are highly likely do have the problems that we solve–we have to fund the customers where this is a burning issue that they have to address now.  They may not have the problem, they may have bigger problems, for whatever reason they may not care.  Until the customer recognizes, “We can no longer operate this way, we have to change,” the customer has no need to buy.  As a result it’s impossible to align our agenda with the customer’s agenda.  We piss them off trying to talk about how great our solutions are–even if we talk about it in the context of the customer’s problems if they don’t care.

This raises another critical issue, sometimes–because we are the best in the world at solving these problems for these customers, we can see things they don’t.  We can see they may not know they could or should be performing better than they are.  They may not know they are missing opportunities.  They may not know the competition may be outperforming them.  They are consumed in the day to day activity of running their businesses.

If we talk to them about how great our solutions are, they simply don’t care because they don’t know they should care.

This is where insight and teaching our customers is so important.  We have to disrupt our customers’ thinking, we have to disrupt the status quo.  The customer has to say, “We must change now!”

We’ve reached the point where both agenda’s our aligned.  The customer has a problem that we are the best in the world at solving, and they want to solve the problem now!

Where we waste time–ours and customers is we are selling to the wrong people at the wrong time.  We haven’t done our homework to understand what problems we really solve and the sweet spot.  We haven’t created the sense of urgency to solve that problem now.

As a result we struggle.  We have our goals, our objectives, our agendas–but we are calling on people and organizations where we can never align our agendas.

We have to be very purposeful in driving our agendas and achieving our goals.   We can’t be diverted from them.

But the way we achieve this is focusing only on customers and prospects where our agendas are aligned.

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