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Sounds complicated…

Ever have that feeling on the buy-side of a sales presentation?  The more the sales rep said, the harder he tried, the worse things got?  How much of our business marketplace do you think is occupied by “average people”?

I consider myself an average person – which begs the question, “What on earth is an average person”?  I guess “it all depends”.  According to Wikipedia:

…as chronicled in his bestseller The Average American: The Extraordinary Search for the Nation’s Most Ordinary Citizen, Kevin O’Keefe successfully completed a nationwide search for the person who was the most statistically average in the United States during a multi-year span starting in 2000. Newsweek proclaimed of the book, “The journey toward run-of-the-mill has never been so remarkable.”

Looks like Kevin O’Keefe remarkably over-complicated his search for an average person.

OK, hard to define perhaps but if you believe as I do that masses of opportunities are staffed by average people tasked with making buying decisions, then how effective are we at conveying our sales message to these average persons?

In the technology sales profession, we easily digress into a language of acronyms, technical terminology, and over-complication, true?  The end result often confuses the prospective buyer – and a confused prospect doesn’t buy.  They probably say to themselves, “This seems complicated; sounds expensive; I better wait.”  And Poof!  There goes our deal.

This language of confusion isn’t limited to the technology profession.  I recently listened to a discussion about making coffee and the various methods, machines and machinations that can go into it:

Rudnicki’s Nobel Principle:

Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else can understand it at all.

Unknown Sage

To add to the mess, many sales people pile on “the demo”; delivered by the “Technical Sales Consultant”; and that’s when our prospect switches to Coke.

Truth be told; I do coach my clients to leverage visual-based selling techniques to convey technically complex topics conceptually.  I like to follow Stephen R. Covey’s view so the prospective buyer has context in case we have to delve down into more complicated details.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

Stephen R. Covey

Most of the time I prefer to create my own visuals vs. relying on my marketing and/or product specialists because they typically add methods, marketing automation machines, and machinations  (aka features, statistics, and 3rd party research) that in an effort to clarify – actually confuse.

I will on many occasions reuse visuals created by someone else, so long as I can easily understand them.  You see, if I as an average person can get it, the odds are high my prospective client can too.  However, my buyers remain wary:

GAP‘s Dictionary of Computereeze:

Salesman – A user-friendly conveyor of highly technical, data processing concepts in an easy-to-understand, though sometimes slightly inaccurate fashion.

Trying to keep things simple (and accurate) has served me well; I believe the skill of getting to the essence of a prospective buyer’s situation, in layman’s terms, is a key to successful sales transactions.  Here is an example of one of my favorite pie charts that reflects this principle of simplicity:
pieSo I ask…  Take a look at the PowerPoint slides; handouts; pie charts; and websites you leverage to sell your products and services.  Was your content written by marketing specialists, technical writers, and product experts?  Does it clearly convey your main point?

Or, does it cause your prospect to think, “Sounds complicated – I’m switching to Coke”?

GAP

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Style and Subtlety – Boom!

Yep – did it again.  Yesterday I fell into that all-to-common digital trap of our modern century – I blasted a colleague (and friend) on IM.  Ate those digital words this morning:

Pratter’s Prayer

Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them. 

Unknown Sage

It was the usual setting:  I was digitally multi-tasking; fast and furious.  It’s quarter-end; a stressful time that comes around… oh… just every 90 days (funny how that works).  The combination meant I could, “double my pleasure – double my fun”:

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. 

Ashleigh Brilliant

I texted him a question; he texted back an answer; I didn’t like his answer; he didn’t like my question; I asked for an alternative; he said not a chance…  A frequent, digital argument expressed with directness and written in digital shorthand; punctuated with emoticons; all behind the shield of our monitors.

Collegial banter?  Depends on who’s the banterer and who’s the banteree.  That type of typing can quickly cut to raw emotions lurking nearer the surface during stressful times such as quarter-end.

We were briefly embattled with a “my way or the highway”; “I’m right – you’re wrong”; “compromise is for sissies”; “I eat Marines for breakfast” blast-fest.  Totally devoid of style or subtlety.  U2?  Been there done that I bet.  Not one of my proudest moments, digital or otherwise.

Style and subtlety; certainly diminishing dimensions in today’s digital era.  It’s actually worse than that.

Seemingly gone are the days of subtlety, statesmanship, irony, even sarcasm.  Texts and emails are written in black and white; read as black OR white.  Intentions behind the expressions are easily misinterpreted; feelings easily hurt; and everyone seems to have barbed retorts at the ready.

Even our political process has degenerated into a continuous barrage of confrontational accusations and insults vs. the skilled and stylish statesmanship of centuries past.  Oh they were direct back in the day, but within the context of a statesmanship image coupled with face-to-face bravery vs. digital cowardliness:

A story is told of a Woman Member of Parliament who, after an extensive tirade at a social function, scornfully told the Prime Minister, “Mr. Churchill, you are drunk”, to which Churchill replied, “And you Madam, are ugly.  But I shall be sober tomorrow.”

Today, we don’t know if the statesman’s statement was sarcasm or irony having not been there to witness the state of his drunkenness nor the appearance of his accuser.  Because the event was face-to-face vs. digital, there could easily have been expressions of irony or sarcasm that dulled the barbs of the barbs.  Stylish statesmen of centuries past were able communicators and skilled in the art of avoiding black OR white confrontations.

Statesmanship, style and subtlety of the 20th century?  Boom!  Sacrificed for the sake of today’s digital age.  Replaced by the barrage of black OR white hyperbole perfect for IMs, emails, emoticons, and the evening news.

In business, should we even care?  Can we stop hiding behind our monitors?  Is subtlety mightier than the digital sword?  I think our favorite, Unknown Sage still believes so:

Subtlety is saying what you think, but then leaving before anyone really understands what you meant.

Digital communications technology can be wonderful – when used properly.  It can also be barbed weapons; hurting feelings; killing relationships when not.  Too easy and too often taken as black OR white.  Agreed?  Well, if not… I’m right and you’re wrong!

GAP

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Speak the language?

Today, business discourse in general and sales interactions in particular, involves asking questions, true?  Lots and lots of questions, yes?  See what I mean?  Point made?  ‘nuff said?

OK, OK, I’m simply trying to demonstrate that today’s business language involves asking a great many questions.  The more skilled we are in the language of questions, the more successful we can be.

Think about our doctor and her ability to diagnose ailments.  Doctors ask us lots and lots of questions so we can participate in the process more so than simply offering a body part for repair.  Our tax accountants ask questions; our lawyers too.  Many professions involve the asking of many questions; but not all.

Contrast our interactions with our doctors to that of our auto mechanics.  With the latter, there is less question/answer dialog, isn’t there?  Many auto mechanics have drop boxes where we fill out a form, leave our keys and expect them to fix the problem.  “I hear a noises coming from the right-front-end” might be the only clue we offer our mechanic – expecting him to perform a miracle from there (and hopefully, inexpensively too).

Of course, auto mechanics don’t always welcome our assistance:

            Labor Rates 

    Regular                                 $ 24.50

    If you wait                               30.00

    If you watch                             35.00

    If you help                               50.00

    If you laugh                             75.00

Unknown Sage

In my profession, sales people ask our prospects a plethora of questions.  However, many times we are not asking questions because of our natural curiosity and true interest in our prospect’s situation. Too many times our questions are more self-serving; more product-feature-focused; more trial-closing-oriented.  Did we not read the book?

THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE by Stephen R. Covey 

HABIT 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Let’s turn the table.  Have you ever noticed the times we’re comfortable with the questions we’re being asked, and the other times questioning irritates us?  How about those forecasting calls?  How about the times when a subject matter expert needed for our deal asks first if our deal is even “qualified”?  Same question our Sales Manager asks – often!  Some questions can be very irritating, don’t you agree?

Maybe we all can agree that it’s not so much “what” we ask; rather it’s “how” we ask it.  It’s our tone of voice; choice of words; the directness; the quantity; the repetition of our questions.  I mean, it’s not supposed to feel like an interrogation (unless I suppose, we are interrogators – or Sales Managers).

If our dentist displayed the same chairside manner that we do during sales calls, we would become a totally toothless society.  I mean, if we applied the same tone, language, and directness we use in our sales role to our social life, we would all become hermits ostracized by family, friends and potential companions who would consider us rude and totally uncouth!  Not to mention our toothlessness.  But I digress.

There are also times where we ask questions about things the prospect finds obvious.  That’s not good:

In a visit to a utility company to study its best practices, teams from Sprint Corporation in Westwood, Kansas, were shocked to learn that some corporate cultures weren’t quite as rigid as theirs.  When the Sprint teams asked questions regarding dress code and attendance policies, the firm responded that its policies were come to work, and wear clothes. 

Bob Nelson

So I submit to my fellow sales professionals for your professional consideration – shall we add a little more professionalism back into our profession?

GAP

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Interrupted Attention…

That term was used during a recent webinar.  They were explaining the modern phenomena of people being fixated to their electronic devices.  And in the office – people operating 2-3-4 computer monitors at a time; multitasking throughout meetings.  The presenter presented presentation techniques to address this phenomenon.  I don’t think the audience was paying attention.

Yes, yes, I know – in 2015 multitasking is not just an accepted practice; it has become an expected practice.  I sometimes worry when a client finds me giving them my complete and undivided attention, they are thinking I’m some kind of whacko!

Masquerading as a better way to put everyone in touch, e-mail (and voice-mail) have become incessant distractions, a nonstop obligation and a sure source of stress and anxiety.  

I expect that a public statement by the Surgeon General is in the offering. 

 Seth Shostak

I’ve written often on the impact technology is having on our ability to be smart; to think; to be prompt; to be polite.  We all can relate to those occasions when we’re “caught”, can’t we?  Sorry – I wasn’t listening.  But does it persist?

I only have to be told twice; once. 

Adam Katzenmeyer

I can remember a time when it was more difficult to work with children because of their low attention span.  It used to be that we would complain that our kids are hopped-up on sugar; wound-up with adrenaline; hard to catch their attention; hard to get them to focus.  Maybe this is the source of stress and anxiety Seth Shostak was referring to:

Two children were playing in the back yard when their father came to the porch and yelled at them for the third time to come in for dinner.  The one child turned to the other and asked, “I can’t remember; which one am I?  Jesus Christ or God Dammit?”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world it seems to me that the levels of interrupted attention among children and adults are reversed.  But when the stress and anxiety of continuously multi-tasking wears us down, our favorite, Unknown Sage offers us this assistance:

Thing to say when you get caught sleeping at your computer:

“Did you ever notice the sound that comes out of the keyboard when you put your ear real close?”

Raise your head slowly and say, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Comparatively, children seem to be a little more attentive today, a little more focused on accomplishing tasks at hand; a little easier to work with. Today, it’s the adults that have “become their TV”; “become their in-box”, “become their phone”.  And we’re not particularly concerned about being rude with our multi-tasking either.

Well, if both adults and children have interrupted attention spans these days, at least I can rely on my horse.  He offers me his best in memory-retention.  Yes, horses are definitely the best – as suggested by Elmer Wieland, founder of America’s finest precision mounted, youth drill teams (see http://westernaires.org/about/ ):

The more I know adults, the better I like children.  The more I know children, the better I like horses.

It’s true – Even if I haven’t ridden my horse for a while; even if we haven’t worked in the round pen.  When I put a saddle on his back he doesn’t freak out; he doesn’t spit the bit out of his mouth.  And when I climb on his back, thankfully, he remembers me; remembers it’s OK; and he doesn’t buck me off.

If only our children; our colleagues, and our clients were so attentive.

GAP

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The answer…

Have you noticed how frequently we are occupied today in seeking (or providing) “the answer”?

If you’re like me, many times “the answer” to a stated question or posed problem isn’t quite that simple.  My Father-in-Law, who was a carpenter, would respond to our home improvement feasibility questions with, “It all depends”.  How’s that for a non-answer, answer!

Take the mathematical problem; How much is 1+1?   In the precise, mathematical sense the answer is simple:  2.  In the real world of our business endeavors however, “precise” and “simple” are typically fantasies, true?  Our real world problems can be summarized:

Addendum to Murphy’s Law: 

In precise mathematical terms, 1+1 = 2, where “=” is a symbol meaning seldom if ever. 

Unknown Sage

And Murphy was an optimist.

So if our clients and colleagues today just want “the answer” to thus and so, what are we to do?  If their paradigm is – No discussion; No clarification; No interaction; No time – just give me the answer.  Oh, and by the way – it needs to be the “right answer”.  Oh, and I almost forgot – the faster the better.  What are we to do?  What is the (right) answer to such a problem?  Go ahead –please email it to me.  No, don’t call – I’m too busy to chat – in a hurry – you know.

Nobody is in a rush for the wrong answer. 

Robert D. Cohen

Well OK, Mr. Cohen.  But it seems like everyone is in a hurry.  So I ask again, what are we to do when we’re asked for “the answer” knowing that it “all depends”?

In business today there is in many cases an absence of “right answers” vs. “wrong answers”.  There are actually lots of right ways to do things (and lots of wrong ways too).  Answering business questions today is a thinking game.  If no thinking is required – then that is called a “transaction”.

If a question (aka transaction) does not require our interaction; if it can be self-serviced; that’s what’s known as an App on our Smart Phones; or a url on the Internet.  Anything left over probably requires thought – and thinking probably requires interaction – and interaction definitely requires time.

Whatever the business problem posed today is – there is likely not a singular answer – there are simply advantages and disadvantages to each of several “solutions” to be considered.  And how many of us state that we are in the “solution business”?  (At our company we even have people with Solution Consultant as their business card title.)

But if “solution” is mistaken for a “right answer”; and if a “right answer” is mistaken singularly as “the answer”; then don’t we run the risk of winding up back where we started?  Unknown Sage, help us:

Winfield’s Dictum of Direction-Giving: 

The possibility of getting lost is directly proportional to the number of times the direction-giver says, “You can’t miss it.”

Maybe answers can be automated.  Is that why we have so many automated call directories when we phonesomeone with a question?  Is technology “the answer”?

Gattuso’s Extension of Murphy’s Law: 

Nothing is ever so bad that it can’t get worse. 

Unknown Sage

OK, automation is probably not the answer.  Maybe, just maybe the solution is not “the answer” at all.  Maybe the answer is actually taking the time and completing the interactions in order to properly understand “the problem” in the first place.  Maybe the answer is the collaboration around the pros and cons of multiple, applicable answers.

Who da thought?

GAP

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Making matters worse…

Recently I offered research suggesting technology is actually making us stupid (see http://thequoteguys.com/2015/02/is-technology-making-us-stupid-2/ ).  Last week, while enjoying a delightful discussion about rapidly responding to customers’ requests it dawned on me:

Is today’s technology actually making Customer Service matters worse, too?

One would expect that technology should be making us smarter and better vs. dumber and worser, true?  Welcome to the Department of Unintended Consequences.

Permit me to offer an example.  A while ago I needed to fly to Austin for a client engagement.  It was one week after I had elbow surgery.  Since my arm was set in a cast at a right angle, I was concerned about my seat assignment on Frontier Airlines.  It was one of those online reservations that indicated my seat would be assigned at the gate.  This of course meant, “You’ll be lucky if we give you a center seat Pal.”  I envisioned my elbow sticking out in the face of the person next to me.  Their automated reservation message made matters worse.

Worried, I called Frontier Airlines’ Customer Service line to see if they might acknowledge my situation and offer an accommodation.  The Automated Call Directory front-end to their Customer Service line said they were experiencing unusually high call volumes and my wait time might be long.  This of course meant, “We really don’t want to talk about your problem Pal.  Send us an email that we can ignore.”  Their ACD made matters worse.

Nonetheless, I’m a Modern Man – I stayed on hold and multi-tasked (as they were probably doing) until someone finally took my call.  The conversation was brief, and went along the usual making matter worse lines we have all been exposed to before:

How to Manage an Irate Client Call:

“I’m sorry you’re so upset.  I really feel your pain.  No, I don’t think we can fix the problem.  No, you can’t get your money back.  Well, I am the supervisor.  Let me transfer you to Mr. Dial Tone…” 

Unknown Sage

Being put-off by their lack of empathy, this Modern Man did what many of us do in today’s smart phone era:  I went to Facebook and screamed like a banshee!

Wouldn’t you know it?  Within a few minutes I received a very nice Facebook response from an anonymous Frontier Airlines person offering to help!  And the very nice, anonymous, Facebook person proceeded to pull invisible strings and gave me a window seat to accommodate my needs.

You might conclude that because of this very quick, Facebook response that my overall experience with Frontier Airlines’ Customer Service was positive.  It wasn’t.

Look – if we have to face Automated Call Directory trees designed to loop us through a corn maze until we give up; if we have to speak with some non-empowered Rep reading from an automated screen script that pops up depending on the category of our issue; if we have to rely on social media and screaming like a banshee every time we seek Customer Service; then at the end of this technology-laden, time-consuming; automated, impersonal experience, we will be worse off.

So though I no longer consider Frontier Airlines a viable travel option and would rather take Amtrak; and yes – I highlighted a travel experience knowing we all have our own horror stories.  The reality is this technology-laden, automated, impersonal approach to Customer Dis-Service all too often permeates all of our businesses; many of our own attitudes; and – IMHO – today’s technology is making matters worse.

Yours truly – the screaming banshee.

GAP

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Excuse me a minute…

So, one of my clients called me the other day – he had a question.  I always enjoy it when my clients call for assistance.  I feel like I am adding value.  Wait – can you excuse me for a minute….

As I was saying, this client had a question and I helped him with the answer.  It makes me feel good when I can help my clients.  The interesting thing to me in this case was he had asked me that same question a couple of days earlier.  Just a minute please….

Where was I?  Oh yea, a few days earlier I had answered the same question from this client.  I remember now because when he called that time, he kept putting me on hold; he had to take other calls.  Oh darn – may I put you on hold for a moment – I’ll get rid of this call….

Isn’t technology wonderful?  All of us can stay so busy multi-tasking, true?  True?  Are you still there?  Oh – OK, good.

Yes, we can talk, tweet, read email, IM, all at the same time!   Sometimes we can even do all of these things while driving!  Occasionally though, we will be speaking with someone and they can tell they don’t have our full attention, true?  Oops – give me just a second….

I’m back.  So as I was saying, when we multi-task we often sacrifice focus; and when we sacrifice focus, we often turn into poor listeners; and when we are poor listeners we usually miss key information.  And missing key information can fluster us – like this story from our favorite, Unknown Sage:

A flustered father, stressed out from his day at work, was unsuccessfully texting his kids to come in for dinner.  Finally, he walks out on his porch and yells for his kids to come in. 

At that point one youngster turns to his brother and asks, “I can’t remember, which one am I – Jesus Christ or God dammit?”

What’s that – what was I talking about?  Well, I was just saying that modern technology will never replace the effectiveness of street lights.  I mean, back in the day we knew we needed to be home at this time of year when the streetlights came on.  Oh, excuse me again….

Can you believe it was that same client?  I told him I was in a meeting and would call him back in a bit.  Funny thing about business today; do you ever call someone only to have them tell you they’re in a meeting?  Always makes me wonder why they answered the phone in the first place.

What’s that?  Well, I was just asking when you are present in a meeting, are your present?  And what do you do when everyone knows you were briefly absent?   I mean it’s hard to give your best when you’re multi-tasking don’t you agree?  Yes?  Hello?  Hello.  Yes I’ll hold…

You’re back?  Well, I was just saying that one of my colleagues has a professionally appropriate way of addressing this issue:

Sorry – I wasn’t listening.  But I only have to be told twice; once. 

Adam Katzenmeyer

A very wise statement, don’t you think?  In one, respectful admission, Adam: (A) acknowledged he was not listening, (B) avoided faking it, and (C) acknowledged a commitment to listen, going forward.

What’s that – you gotta go?  No worries.  Text me and we’ll finish up our conversation later, OK?

GAP

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my website and book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.

Qualifying, Clarifying, or Guessing?

One of my mentors Joe Carusi, recommended I read the book, Selling is Dead© by Marc Miller to help clarify how buyers buy today.  Catchy little title, yes?  I highly recommend it to any B2B sales professional.  Marc Miller’s main point is we should understand the type of buyer-demand we’re facing, and once understood, use the appropriate selling tactics.

Understanding the buyer-demand; focus on the prospect more than the deal – what a concept!

Qualifying is more difficult than guessing, yes?  Knowing which prospects (aka “Buyers”) to pursue and which prospects (aka “Lookers”) to nurture is a challenge, true?  The former make decisions while the latter represent the “long lose”.  The former have a decision-making body, with decision-criteria, and an approval process.  The latter just want a demo and a quote.

It’s hard to stay focused on the prospect.  Sometimes we get so focused on the “deal” that we do a poor job of picking up the subtleties the prospect offers.  It’s easy to get caught “guessing” that they are qualified and just focus on winning the deal; getting to the approval process.

Sales Management likes to “help” us qualify our deals too, don’t they?  Of course, everyone wants to talk about the prospect’s approval process.  I wrote a little ditty about approval processes (see The Approval-Process).  Sales professionals live and breathe approval processes.

As defined by TheFreeDictionary.com:

Live and breathe something 

If you live and breathe an activity or subject, you spend most of your time doing it or thinking about it because you like it so much.

I suppose we only “like” living and breathing the approval process when we win the deal, true?  The “looonnnggg looossse”?  We hate living and breathing through those approval processes!

Sales training from the last century taught us “BANT” – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe.  Not much there about understanding buyer-demand.  Yes, I am reminded that the “A” and the “N” are supposed to be about the prospect.  I’m simply asking whether we focus on the prospect; or the deal?

Let’s take a closer look at the “A” – Authority.  When we speak with our prospects, we often ask, “Mr. Prospect, in addition to yourself who else will be involved in this very important decision?”  Perhaps we don’t believe Arthur W. Radford’s advice:

A decision is the action an executive must take when he has information so incomplete that the answer does not suggest itself. 

Is the information we provide complete?  Does our solution “suggest itself”?  Do we understand their “Need”?  Can there be dissent?  And if there is dissent, do we panic?  Press?  Discount?

Alfred Sloan, Chairman and CEO of General Motors for years was in a Board meeting about to make an important decision.  He said, “I take it that everyone is in basic agreement with this decision.”  Everyone nodded.  Sloan looked at the group and said, “Then I suggest we postpone the decision.  Until we have disagreement, we don’t understand the problem.”

This is the funny part about winning deals – the less we understand buyer-demand; the more we focus on the deal.  The more we (over) react to dissent; the more we press.  The more we press; the harder it is to win …. the deal.

How many times do we just want the deal while caring less about the prospect?  Yet when we clarify more about the latter, it’s amazing how many more of the former they reward us with.

GAP

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my website and book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.

First in, best dressed

Today, sales professionals often have to catch up with the “modern buyer” who is often ahead of us in their evaluation process.  Nothing new; here’s a tale from last century. 

It was a call-in… 

NewCo Mining was being spun off and needed a new payroll system – in 5 weeks.  What would you have done?  I scheduled a 9 am for the next morning.  Would wear my best tie. 

Carol in Finance escorted me into a conference room and introduced me to Judy from HR and Bill from IT.  (Bill was with IBM; assigned to help NewCo spin-off from the parent company’s systems.)  I started the usual way: “Thank you for inviting me to visit with your today…”  “I’ve prepared some information to share…”  “Before we get to my list, what do you want to cover?” 

Straight forward enough, but Carol just repeated the information she shared over the phone.  It was uncomfortable, until “he” walked in without introduction.  “He” sat at the end of the conference table.  No greeting, no handshake (no warmth).  Carol picked up the pace: 

We’re a new company being spun off from XYZ Mining.  We have approximately 1,000 union employees at 5 mine locations plus a corporate staff.  We need to convert to a new payroll system by the start of the quarter (5 weeks from now).  Bill is from IBM and will help us with anything we need; data conversion, interfaces, whatever.  We called you because your company is the biggest in the business; we also called your largest competitor – they will be here in an hour.  What will it take to get a proposal? 

First in! 

I described a 5-step process that would address their request: 

  1. Requirements Analysis (covering functional, technical, and financial considerations)
  2. Feedback on the feasibility of our findings; recommendations; and preliminary pricing
  3. Product and Service set presentation (functional demo, installation  requirements, interfaces; file format options; Customer Service Delivery; “Phase 2” options; and our Quality Assurance program)
  4. Final price quote review and preparation of order placement documents
  5. Joint development of the implementation plan (tasks; deadlines; responsibilities; “Go Live” date; post Go-Live phases; etc.) 

I cautioned that an implementation of their size and complexity often ran much longer than 5 weeks from the order placement date; and this was only our “Very 1st Meeting”. 

That’s when “he” spoke: 

We have Don Wall coming in next.  (FYI – Don was a Hall-of-Fame sales rep with my biggest competitor.)  Why should we buy from you instead of him? 

Again, no warmth; just eye-contact and a direct question. 

I’ve always been coached to answer direct questions with direct answers.  In this case, I said, “Well, I would answer your question this way:

  • It’s true; my firm is the largest and most successful in the industry
  • My role is to lead our most knowledgeable and experienced team to address the largest and most complex clients in the market (aka best dressed!)
  • Although we are considered the biggest and the best, I’m not sure even we can do your conversion in 5 weeks
  • With respect; you don’t have time to shop around” 

A direct answer, true? 

He looked at me for a moment, turned to Carol and said, “He’s right.  Cancel the 10 am.  Get me a proposal by close of business today.”  And he left the room. 

Carol turned to me and asked, “OK, what do you need from us?” 

First in! 

GAP 

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.

Why?…

Imagine: You’re all alone; in a sinking row boat; at sea; surrounded by sharks.  You have no oars; just a mirror.  You can see land; it’s about a mile off.  The sky is cloudless.  How would you survive this ordeal?  

Jot down your answer; we’ll come back to it. 

My Manager believes (and I agree with him) that Discovery is the most important aspect to a B2B sales process; yet it is an area that most sales people do poorly.  “Discovery”; “Analysis”; “Requirements Definition”; it goes by many names.  What do you call it?  I’ll refer to it as “Disco” for today, OK? 

Doing an effective Disco certainly is not easy.  Getting the prospect to tell you what their needs are; tell you about their current shortcomings; sharing their goals; permitting you to meet with their full staff; complete interviews with their executives; etc., etc., etc., requires the utmost of skill and discretion.  

And, of course, in competitive situations the prospect may not want to give you all of the time and the access you need to be thorough.  Worse yet:  The people you’re interacting with may favor a competitor – especially, our most tenacious competitor; “no change”.  

            Not to decide is to decide.

                                                           Harvey Cox 

When we’re doing a Disco in that situation, the people we’re interviewing will withhold key information (or worse, lie!).  Even if they favor your solution, they may still withhold information because they’ve moved past Disco into Negotiation mode, true? 

All valid – yet most often a bad Disco is due to poor skills on the part of us – the sales person.  We’re too anxious to sell; too high pressured in our questioning; in too much of a hurry.  We like to speak – not listen; we want to dwell on “us”, not focus on “them”.  And, we can over-think things instead of simply asking our prospect, “Why?”  Here’s our favorite, Unknown Sage: 

The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert.  After their tent was set up, they fell sound asleep.  One hour later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, “Kemo-Sabe, look towards the sky.  What do you see?”  The Lone Ranger replies, “I see millions of stars.”  “What that tell you?” asks Tonto.  The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute and then says, “Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially millions of planets.  Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.  Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning.  Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant.  Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.  What’s it tell you, Tonto?”  Tonto is silent for a moment, then says, “Kemo-Sabe, you dumb a@#.  Someone stole tent.”                                                                           

I opened today’s little ditty with a “Minute Mystery” – fun to play in a group; excellent drill for a sales team to practice their Disco skills.   One person states the mystery; everyone else works together to get to the solution.  The players can ask the leader questions that can be answered either “Yes” or “No” (only).  All-in-all, it should take about a minute to solve the mystery.  

Asking good questions; listening to the answers; and avoiding over-thinking; are all keys to solving Minute Mysteries.  True – today, you didn’t have the benefit of teammates to help you solve the mystery stated at the start.  Nonetheless, how did you do?  The answer, you ask?  “Stop imagining.” 

GAP 

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