I’ve noticed a huge gap in how we equip and train our sellers, how we help them engage our customers in high impact conversations that focus on them and their problems, not pitching our projects. This gap became bigger with Challenger, as we equipped our people to provide “Insights.” And more recently, with new customer research and AI tools, the gap has become even greater.
We equip our people to provide a certain insight, for example, “We’ve noticed this to be an issue with similar customers, are you seeing the same thing?” Usually, we train them what response to expect, training them to respond, “We can solve that issue with this product…..”
But that rarely happens. Most of the time, the customer might respond with, “Tell me more….” Or possibly, “why are they seeing that as an issue?” Or “I’m not sure, what should we be looking for?” Or “What do you mean?”
We train people to provoke a conversation about a critical issue, but we don’t give them the skills to actually have the conversation. They don’t know how to drill more deeply into the issues, or to how to challenge their thinking. They have provoked a response, but are unable to deal with that response in a manner that’s actually responsive to the customer and the conversation.
For example, some years ago, someone was prospecting me. He made a very provocative statement, “Dave, based on our analysis, while you are doing well, we think you can be doing so much better…..” Intrigued, I asked, “What’s your basis for saying this?”
Then I asked, “What am I doing wrong…..”
Eventually he responded, “We’d like to schedule a demo to show how you can perform so much better…..”
I responded, “But you made a very intriguing claim, I’d like to understand that more. Where am I failing, where can I do better, what am I doing wrong?”
He had captured my interest but was completely incapable of continuing the discussion he had started.
I was interested in learning more, but he disappointed me by not being able to respond to my interest. The only response he had was to get me to a demo. When I asked, “Why do I need to go to a demo, why can’t we talk about the issues you just raised,” he couldn’t do anything.
We want to—we need to—have high impact conversations with our prospects and customer. But to do this, we have to be capable of actually having the conversation, not just making a statement. And, as a result, we miss too many opportunities to engage our customers in high impact conversations.
Conversations are, by definition, two way. And we have to be capable of drilling down a few levels into the issues we are trying to discuss with the customer.
It’s ironic, the answer we want most from the customer is, “Tell me more…..” Yet that is the response we are, too often, poorly equipped to deal with.