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Sep 22 21

Just Because Your Customer Isn’t Saying “No”………

by David Brock

Too often, we think that because the customer isn’t saying “No” to us, we assume they must agree or be aligned with what we are doing. But the absence of a “No,” doesn’t mean they are saying “Yes.”

Too often we read the absence of “No’s” with hopeful optimism. The fact that we continue our discussions with the customer builds our hope the deal is real, the customer likes what we are discussing, the customer is favorably disposed to what we are selling. The longer this persists, the more we believe, “We’ve got this…..,” we may even commit the opportunity to our forecast.

The reality couldn’t be further from this. The absence of No’s should spark concern. It should cause us to wonder, “Do they care? Are they at all interested? Are they committed to doing something?”

Not getting a “No,” probably means we aren’t asking the right questions. We may not be probing enough to understand what the real issues are, what they want to do and why, how they will organize themselves to make a decision, how they will make a decision.

Getting no “No’s” means we aren’t challenging the customers’ thinking enough, that we aren’t doing the things to get them really engaged in exploring alternatives and what they mean to their success.

If the customer isn’t saying “No,” we probably aren’t saying “No,” when we should. We’re afraid to get disagreement, we seek to avoid objections.

“No” is a healthy part of every conversation. No’s mean we have something to talk about to engage our customers in a meaningful way, to learn from each other, and move forward.

The absence of “No,” should raise concerns about the opportunity!

Sep 21 21

Who’s Coaching Our Customers?

by David Brock

Everyone needs coaching. I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog talking about coaching as key to driving performance in sales people.

I’ve written extensively about directive and non-directive coaching–focusing on non-directive as the most impactful in helping sales people learn and grow.

Effective coaching is really a shared learning experience between the manager and the person being coached. Ideally, the manager learns more about their people when they coach. The sales person learns how to think about what they are doing and how to be more effective–whether we are coaching deal, account, territory management, prospecting, or pipeline skills. Or we are helping them think about their long term development, or helping them develop their abilities to work more effectively with their team.

We know practices that are ineffective in coaching. Not paying attention, not listening, not taking the time to coach are, perhaps, the biggest errors. Telling them what to do is pretty ineffective, they don’t learn anything–and most people feel resentful about this (often they do exactly the opposite, just out of spite).

Coaching is one of the most important things in driving high impact performance improvement with our people. We want to help them think differently about what they do and how they perform. We leverage coaching to help them understand, embrace, and implement change.

Now let’s shift gears a little, let’s think about our customers and their development. Like sales people, they face rapid change, disruption, challenges, and opportunities. Now they are facing issues they have never experienced before.

As they look at solutions, they face another challenge, an overwhelming amount of information about how to address their challenges. And the majority of it is high quality information. They struggle with sorting through and “making sense” of these choices, and moving forward.

Customers need help. They aren’t so much looking for the answers, they recognize they have to figure out the best approaches for them. But they are looking for help sorting things out, making sure they are thinking about the right issues, risks, challenges. They need help in determining what’s most important, or how to look at things differently than they have before. They need help in re-thinking what they do and how they do it.

They need “coaching.” Of course they will get some from their own management. But those managers face many of the same challenges their people face. They are dealing with things they have little experience with.

Where do our customers turn to get coached?

It’s a huge opportunity for sales people! Who better to coach them, after all we have the experience of working with many other customers solving similar issues. Our companies have the collective experience of working with thousands of customers.

We can do a lot to help our customers learn and think differently. We can do a huge amount in helping make sense of the things they face. But only if we apply the approaches of high impact coaching. If we examine the foundations of things like Challenger or Consultative selling, we see they are really built on coaching approaches. We know the skills high impact sales people leverage are just the same as coaching–collaborative conversations, shared learning, active listening, caring about the success of their customers.

Where does this break down? It breaks down in the same way bad/no coaching breaks down: We don’t do it, we don’t care, we are constantly telling/pitching, we don’t take the time to understand the situation and what customers face, we aren’t qualified……

Just as our people look for and get great value out of high impact coaching, our customers are doing the same thing. If we aren’t providing that leadership, who is?

Sep 20 21

Is Trust Sufficient?

by David Brock

Colleen Francis is running a fascinating survey on LinkedIn. She’s posed the question, “If buyers know you, like you, and trust you, will they buy from you?

It caused me to reflect, “is trust sufficient?”

Without a doubt, trust is can be a critical element in the customer’s buying decision—we look at the opposite condition, “Would people buy from people they don’t trust?”

We are hesitant to buy from people/organizations we don’t trust. We may do this when the risk is very low, when we are very familiar and confident in the offering, when there is no other reasonable opportunity.

Sometimes, we buy a product because we know and trust the product. We may not have knowledge/trust in the person we buy the product from. We just want to make sure the risk of delivery is low.

As we get into more complex decisions, where the risk, our uncertainty/lack of knowledge, complexity of the issues we face is high, trust is becomes more important. We may not trust ourselves to make informed decisions, so we need to trust others we are involved with—the buying group, the alternatives we are considering, the people/organizations representing those alternatives.

It turns out trust has many dimensions. It’s not just, “I trust you/You trust me…..” So just because we may be trusted is insufficient.

One might also read other things into the concept. If trust is important to the buying decision, there has to be a certain amount of trust in the alternatives being considered. It simply doesn’t make sense to say, “We are considering you, because we trust you, but we are considering other alternatives and don’t trust them.” So the concept, “they bought because they trusted us,” misinterprets the situation. The other alternatives were “trustworthy,” perhaps in different senses, so trust is necessary, but not sufficient.

As we drill deeper, it turns out trust is variable, not an absolute. We may trust others for certain things and not for other things. Not because someone has become untrustworthy, but they may not have the expertise we need for the situation we face. For example, while I hope that I am generally trustworthy, you shouldn’t listen to me for engineering design insight, legal insight, and many other things. While I may be trustworthy, but I should not be trusted for certain things. This isn’t maliciousness, it’s just lack of knowledge expertise. So trust can’t be blind.

It turns out trust isn’t a “fixed” concept. My friend, Charlie Green, is probably one of the best in the world on this. The “trust equation,” provides us insight into the variability of trust across situations and time: Trustworthiness= (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy)/ (Self Orientation)

So where do we end up? Trust is a critical element of earning a buying decision–but it is not the only basis for which customers make buying decisions. And just as we want the customer to trust us, we have to recognize the customer trusts the others who are seeking to win.

So there has to be more than just trust—trust me.

Sep 15 21

Value Is Not A Destination

by David Brock

Too often, when sales people talk about value, it seems it’s some sort of fixed outcome customers should expect if they buy the sales person’s solution. Corporate web sites and sales people talk about, “Our value proposition is…..”

In all honesty, when in my early years in selling, I tended to position value as the endpoint customers would achieve if they bought the products I sold.

It’s a pretty antiquated view of value. The reality is that we must be creating value with the customer for the entire life cycle of our relationship. From their very first digital engagement with us, through every interaction, through their experience of buying, implementing, and utilizing our offerings, we need to be attentive to the value being created in that relationship.

For all sales professionals, this concept of value offers us tremendous ability to differentiate ourselves and compete more effectively. We are no longer limited to winning based on having the lowest price option, or to having more features and functions than the alternatives. We have a much broader basis from which to help our customers, to build a relationship, to support our customers’ aspirations and grow with them.

The relationship becomes less about what we sell, but how we achieve our shared goals.

The concept that value is not a destination, but something we continue to build throughout our relationship with the customer. We have data that customer loyalty and growth is driven by our ability to continue to create value and to help the customer innovate and change. The data tells us that limiting ourselves to defending and maintaining the value we have created in the past is a limiting strategy. We have to look back to that first purchase–the customer bought because we helped them think differently, to change, to innovate in some way. Continuing to do this is what customers most value.

We lose a tremendous opportunity to grow and expand when we limit our thinking to value as a destination.