Not long ago, I was in a conversation with the CEO of a professional services company. His team was struggling with getting into the customers and engaging them in conversations about their solutions. “They just don’t want to talk to us about our solutions!” he said. “How do we get them interested?”
I actually here the same thing from lots of other people, they struggle with getting the customers to spend time with them. These are sophisticated sales professionals. They have carefully researched their customers, they have relevant references, they have great value propositions, still they can’t get into the customers.
In speaking with the CEO, we started talking about a specific customer situation. We looked at all sorts of scenarios, none of them worked. Finally, out of frustration, I asked him, “If you were CEO of that company, would you be running it the same way thay are?”
He paused for a moment, then asked, “What do you mean?”
I responded. “You are experienced at running companies. Knowing what you know about this company, their strategies, their problems, how would you be running the company?”
“I’d change a lot of things they are doing,” he stated. “I’d be doing all these things…..” He outlined the challenges the company faced, the strategies and priorities he would have. He discussed, in detail, what he would change operationally, why, and what he would do to drive growth.
As I listened to him, he didn’t mention anything that he would do that involved the solutions we were discussing. I stopped him and asked him about it. He thought for a moment and realized that if he were in this particular customers shoes, he wouldn’t be considering the solutions at all. He suddenly said, “If I were in my customer’s shoes, I would be focusing on different things, I wouldn’t be interested in talking to my sales guys at all.”
It was a bit of a break-through moment. This CEO had the ability to put himself in his customer’s shoes, to think as if he were running their company’s and what he would do. He didn’t bias his thinking with “how fantastic our services are,” but thought as though he was the customer. Once he was able to see things through his customers’ eyes, we could understand why his people were having difficulties in engaging the customer. We were able to start re-framing ways that his people could approach the customers–things that were meaningful when seen from the customers’ points of view.
Can you put yourself in your customer’s shoes? Can you truly separate yourself from the natural biases you have about the products and services you sell, and look at things through your customers eyes?
As dispassionately as you can, consider the question, “If I were in my customers’ shoes, why would I be interested in talking about these products (what you sell)?” Until you can honestly answer this, you aren’t ready to see the customer, and they won’t be interested in meeting with you.