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Sep 25 20

Do Our Discovery Questions Really Allow Us To Do That?

by David Brock

The discovery part of the buying and selling proceesses are, perhaps, the most important part of the process. It is a huge amount of the shared learning process we start with our customers.

But, do we really “discover,” in this process, or are we just seeking confirmation for what we want to hear?

Too often, our discovery questions are highly scripted to get us to learn the things we need to know to better sell? First, we ask a series of questions to qualify, nominally, the opportunity. We only want to know one thing, “Is this a good fit for us?” (Note, we usually don’t “discover” the customer compelling need to change and the consequences of not changing).

Then there are a series of questions we ask, listening selectively to the answers, often hearing what we want to hear, rather than what is being said. These questions are really oriented to helping us identify the features and functions we want to pitch about our solutions.

Even as biased as those questions are, too often, we fail to do them. We check off the obligatory questions we are told to ask, then ask to schedule a demo…..

What are we discovering?

In reality, nothing. We are just confirming what we want to hear, but not learning much about what the customer really wants to do and why they want to do that.

Discovery is critical for the customer as well. It’s the process to go through to assess what they are currently doing. To understand if they are doing those things as effectively and efficiently as possible? To understand if there are things they could be doing better. To understand if there are things or opportunities they are missing.

Discovery is where the customers learn what others are doing, how they might think differently about their own businesses and goals. They learn what’s happening with their customers and how they might better serve them.

Discovery is where the customer learns what they have to do to be successful in managing the change, Where they assess the risks, where they develop solutions for managing that risk. Where they establish goals and timelines for what they want to/need to achieve.

Discovery is where we, the sellers, and they buyers learn about each other. Not just the products and solutions, but about how we work together to achieve our shared goals.

Too often, buyers fail in their discovery journey. Often because they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what they should be discovering–they may have never been on this buying journey before.

Part of it may be they get their attention diverted by the various sellers, asking their per-programmed questions.

Part of it may be just aligning the buying team in what they are really trying to do.

Or it may be just the pressure of their day jobs and all the other demands on them.

Discovery is the most critical part of the buying and selling process. Wouldn’t the results buyers and sellers produce be much better if we truly went experienced the shared learning of that process.

Wouldn’t it be a stunning outcome if we led our customers through a true discovery process?

Afterword: Thanks so much to Hans Bunes for provoking my thinking on this!

Sep 24 20

Does Your Customer Understand Their “Why?”

by David Brock

When we engage our customers in discussing opportunities, we know it’s critical to understand “why.” Why are they considering making a change? Why now? What are the consequences of doing nothing? What are they trying to achieve? Why is this important to you and the organization?

We are much more effective when we understand what’s driving the customer and we align our strategies around helping the customer navigate the change initiative. We ground everything we do in helping them better understand and address their “why.”

But often, particularly in complex B2B buying journeys, the customer loses track of their why–or some involved in the buying process may have never been a part of determining the why.

They get so involved in the tasks of buying, they lose track of what they were trying to achieve in the first place.

And this is precisely where so many sales people get in trouble. Some thinking they are being responsive, some through cluelessness. We tend to get sucked into what the customer is doing—even though they may be doing the wrong thing or have lost their way. One of the reasons 53% of buying journeys end in no decision made is simply they have lost their way. They lost why they committed to a change effort in the first place.

The customer must always ground their buying journey and change management process in their why. Sometimes they lose their way. We create great value in helping them understand this and how what they are doing right now helps them manage their buying journey much more effective.

Do you understand your customer’s why?

Do they understand their why?

Sep 23 20

“Let’s Partner!”

by David Brock

“Let’s partner,” or many variations on the theme appear in a large number of the LinkedIn and email communications I receive. We all know that’s just another term for “I’d like to sell you something.”

Perhaps it’s my sadistic nature, but every once in a while, toying with someone who sends a particularly strongly worded “partnering” message, I often respond, “It would be great to partner. Can we schedule a conversation about how we have helped organizations like yours improve results?”

The responses are hilarious. One person actually said, “You don’t understand, I’m trying to sell you something! I’m not interested in what you are selling….” If I’m feeling particularly obnoxious, I respond, “Oh, I misunderstood the idea of partnering, I thought it to be something where we might help each other, don’t you want to help me?”

Unfortunately, partnering has become one of those manipulative terms too many use to disguise their true motives, caring more about what they get than what their partner gets. Stated differently, “The partnership is great as long as we get what we want out of it.”

This is completely the opposite of a genuine partnering mindset. Interestingly, a genuine partnering mindset is one of the most powerful means of improving the effectiveness of how our own organizations work, and in engaging our prospects and customers.

Partnering is all about how we work together to achieve shared goals and objectives. It’s a form of collaboration.

Partnering enables each of the partners to achieve goals that couldn’t be achieved without the other.

Partnering facilitates shared discovery and learning.

There are foundations to effective partnering, one of the most important is trust.

In the past, I’ve codified partnering in the following way:

Decoded, it means highly effective partnering requires:

  • Shared risk
  • Shared resources
  • Shared rewards
  • Shared vision
  • Shared values

Partnering isn’t a sales technique. It is, however a very effective way of working with our customers to help them achieve their goals–enabling us to achieve our goals.

Will you become my partner?

Afterword: Thanks to Fred Copestake for a fantastic conversation on our shared interest in applying partnering in business and sales. Be sure to buy his new book, Selling Through Partnering Skills, it’s a great introduction to effective partnering in sales.

Sep 20 20

Don’t Get Distracted By What You Sell!

by David Brock

I was having a conversation with a very good sales person. We were speaking about a very competitive, difficult deal.

The conversation started with “value.” I asked questions about what the customer was trying to do, the results they expected, and the business impact. The sales person answered some of my questions about what the customer was trying to do—-but the conversation started getting diverted.

He started talking about what he was selling–and what he thought the customer was buying. Then he started talking about pricing strategy–both in terms of what they would be proposing to the customer, their reaction to the “premium pricing,” and the competitive response.

“We’re going to be $X more than the competition!”

As we dove into the situation, he was less worried about the competition, their solution wasn’t as strong and the customer had a preference for my client’s solution. He said, “They just don’t think they should be paying this much for our product. I think they are using the competition as leverage to get us to reduce the price.”

In my inimitable way, I asked the confusing question, “What are they buying?” Fortunately, the sales person was patient, recognizing I’m slow. He replied, “They are buying [he named his product].”

In that statement, we reached the core issue–both with buyers and sellers.

We get so caught up in the activities around buying and selling, we forget what the customer is trying to do, why it’s important, and the consequences of not buying.

It’s this serendipitous loop, we focus on selling our products and the customer adjusts their behavior to buying our product. The process becomes what they are buying, not what they are trying to achieve.

(Yeah, I know I’m talking about buyers not buying a drill but needing to have a hole in the wall….)

We started talking about what they were trying to do, we talked about why it was important, the expected results, the consequences of doing nothing. It turned out the results the customer would achieve with the solution my customer was selling was over 100 times the costs of the solution (the price, plus implementation).

“Can the customer achieve the same results without doing anything? Can the customer achieve the same results with another solution?”

As we discussed this, the sales person realized those results were important to the customer–they couldn’t/shouldn’t settle for less. He also recognized they couldn’t not take action.

He went to the customer refocusing the discussion on what they were trying to do. He revalidated the importance of this to them. They discussed the fact that doing nothing was not an option.

They discussed alternatives and the results each would produce. The customer confirmed that my client’s solution was the one they really needed.

Price never came up again. The focus of the conversation shifted from the product to what the customer wanted to achieve, and how my client would ensure they could achieve it.

As sales people, we lose sight of what our customers are trying to do, and why they are trying to do it. Too often, we don’t take the time to learn that, instead we focus on what we are selling and how much it costs.

Our customers get sucked into the same trap. At some point in their buying process, they focus on what we and our competitors are selling and how much it costs. And we reinforce that behavior because that’s what we want to talk about.

Selling–and buying is much easier when we focus on what the customer is trying to achieve, why, and it’s impact. The value the customer is looking for is not the product we sell and they buy, or it’s cost. It’s what it enables them to do.