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by David Brock on May 10th, 2013

Today, I read probably the most impactful posts I’ve read in months.  It’s entitled Stumped, by Mark McCarthy.  It’s simply brilliant, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not reading it.   I won’t do it justice, but I wanted to add my thoughts to Mark’s.

As sales professionals, we think we have to have all the answers.  The customer has a question–we leap to answer, sometimes not really answering the customer’s real question.  We find customers who have problems, we have all the answers—now if only we can get them to buy.

In reality, our customers have very difficult challenges and tough issues.  Answers are not always easy to find.  Being constrained with having to “have the answer” limits us and our ability to create value for the customer.

Being forced to always have the answers limits our ability to engage the customer.  It limits our ability to discover and innovate along side the customer, collaborating in figuring out solutions to really tough problems.

Being stumped with the customer changes the conversation, it changes the interaction. It creates a bond, a shared purpose, and an intimacy that is difficult to achieve otherwise.

To be stumped with the customer requires great confidence on the part of the sales person.  It requires us to admit our vulnerability, it means admitting, “This is a really tough problem.  I don’t have the answers, but I think we can figure it out together.” It’s hard for anyone, much less sales people, to admit vulnerability.  It takes great courage and confidence.

At the same time, it takes great insight, knowledge and credibility.  While you and the customer may be stumped, the customer must have the confidence that we can solve it together.   They must have the willingness to want to solve the problem with you.  Without great confidence, courage, knowledge, and credibility, they will, rightfully so, not be willing to collaborate in solving the problem.

Being stumped and seeking to understand and develop answers challenges us.  It stretches us and the customer.  It causes us to grow and learn.  Innovation and creativity have their roots in being stumped.

Being stumped when we should have answers is stupid.  It’s lack of preparation, it’s not having the knowledge we should have.  It’s unprofessional and a waste of everyone’s time.

Being stumped on truly difficult issues and working with the customer to solve them is a blessing.  It changes both the customer and us.  We innovate, we create, we grow, we learn — together.  We collaborate, creating solutions we couldn’t have imagined otherwise.

When were you last stumped?  If it’s been a long time, maybe you aren’t stretching yourself enough.

Mark, thanks so much for sharing your brilliant article!Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. David;

    The exact quote from Kahneman that I think you are looking at is this:

    “Jumping to conclusions is efficient if the conclusions are likely to be correct and the costs of an occasional mistake acceptable.”, page 79 Thinking, Fast and Slow

    We ought to be stumped (& want to be stumped) only by novel problems that have high costs if wrong.

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