How to Uncover a Prospective Client's Needs
When you're trying to uncover someone's needs, what we're gonna look at is how we explore that. What we do to discover and diagnosis. I'll give you a new view on that, my view of what discovery really is. We'll talk about asking good questions. We'll definitely talk about listening. And we'll talk about these commitments and how you ask for them? I'll give you the mechanics of the language for some of these commitments. So there's three outcomes. We're trying to explore change. So we're trying to figure out what has to change. Why it has to change. We have a point of view about that. We're trying to share that point of view, and explore doesn't make sense for you to do this. So this is what we're working on. And there's sort of a discovery thing and a diagnosis thing going on at the same time. I'm trying to discover what you're doing in your world and I'm trying to diagnosis what's the route cause of that. And it may not be what shows up as the presenting problem. And someone can say, ...
"you know we're really having trouble "increasing our throughput here "and becoming profitable in this area." And then you find out as you do discovery their supervisors haven't been trained. They have really high turnover. Or the machinery's wrong, they're never gonna be able to do it the way they've set themselves up. The software isn't right. The approach isn't right. There's lots of things. What we're looking for is the root cause. How do we find out what the real reason they're not getting the results are. And we probably know. And so the challenge that you have doing discovery and diagnosis as a sales person is we walk in and we know a lot of things. And we know how you're broken, why you're broken, and what to do about it. So we want to jump right past this part and we want to go I know how to fix this for you. Let me get a proposal. We'll take care of this for you. But you're skipping over the part of the process where they come to recognize their problem and their challenges. And I will tell you my view of discovery has changed dramatically over the last, I'm gonna call it four to five years. Where I've recognized the value in the discovery meeting is helping some person discover something about themselves that they didn't know. That's the interesting part. I had a client I was with in France and he said, "My sales people are terrible. "They suck at closing. "They're terrible negotiators. "I'm gonna fire all of them and start over." And for some reason, I don't know what possessed me to ask the question that I asked next, but when it came out of my mouth it was like a boxer that really is right about to knock somebody out. Where I had to take a step back and admire my work. And I was horrified that I said this but I did. I said, "What are going to do with a third group?" And the client sitting across from me said, "I don't understand what you're saying." And I said, "What do we do with the third group?" And he said, "I still don't understand what you're saying." 'Cause he's that direct kind of a guy. And I said, "Well when we fire the first group "and then we treat the second group "just like we're treating the first group. "What are we gonna do different "when we fire them and get to the third group?" And he said, "Anthony, are you saying it's me?" And I said, "Mmmm, maybe more than a little bit, yeah. "It's the leadership." And I said, "They need coaching, they need developed, "and you're gonna be unhappy with everybody "if you don't do these things." He discovered something about himself, and I was a little afraid but I got the reaction that I needed from him. Where we didn't fire 110 people, because that would've been bad and it wouldn't have solved his problem. His problem was a different problem. You're trying to help people discover something about themselves. That's the tricky part of discovery now. You're trying to create an opportunity, and you're trying to assess what needs to be different so you can do something about it. These are all the things you're working on when you're in the discovery stage. I don't think there's anything more powerful though in discovery than being a good listener. I think that that's really where all the action is. And I learned something about myself about eight years ago. I noticed that when I was talking people would interrupt me, and we would sort of have this thing going back where we were talking over each other. And I found it to be really uncomfortable. And I thought that's not really a good way to communicate, so I'll just stop talking. Whenever I'm interrupted I'll just stop and let the person talk until they run out of words. And it turns out people have a lot of words, and they can talk for a long time. But for some reason they get excited about some idea and they start sharing. And what I noticed is that if I let people run out of words and I gave them a four count. Which is what I originally started to do is I would just give people a four count and see if they were finished talking. And they would say something like, "You know we're having a tough time negotiating. "It's really competitive right now, "and we're really not doing a good job coaching." Alright, cool. But they're processing, they're thinking as they're talking to us. So when you're listening and you're giving them space. They start to fill that space. And if you say something, like my friend John Spence would teach you to do, you say something like, "Take seven or eight minutes and tell me what's going on." Now they're responsible for talking for a long time. So they keep talking and you start getting all this stuff out. They've never said some of the words that they're saying to you so you have to be an excellent listener. And it massively changes your relationships when you're the kind of person that can sit and listen and show somebody that you care enough to listen to what they're saying so you can understand them. That's where trust really begins. The question, I'm gonna give you a couple ideas on this. The question that I asked about baby-boomers, was about what's your strategy? What's your long-term strategy for this? That's a good question. That's a question that causes somebody to evaluate do I have a strategy, number one. If I do what is it? Is it right? And now we're starting to ask that. But I want to talk to creatives for just a second because specifically as a creative when you say something like, "What do you think the right brand element "should be right now? "And what are you thinking "about having the consistency across the brand "and all the different platforms?" Now this person has to take a step back and say, "Okay, have I thought about the brand elements? "What is our strategy? "Have I thought about doing this in all the different places "that we're gonna have to create content "like the web, and print, and video, "and all the other things?" So I'm trying to cause people to think by asking them questions and then giving them time to go through the processing themselves. And when you understand that they don't really know the answer to the question that you're asking in a lot of cases, and that they have to process, and you give them room. The preference to work with you goes up, number one, and your understanding goes way up. And the more you give them time to speak the more they'll fill that space. Few people really listen, I love this graphic. It's a certain truth in that. That's how we talk. "Let me tell you about me and my services." And they're like, "Oh my goodness, too much." I want to talk about creating a preference here too and then we'll talk about the commitment to change. When we're selling we're trying to create a preference and this is an interesting thing that I don't think we talk enough about when we talk about what we're trying to do when we're selling. People can work with you. They can work with your competitor. They can work with someone else. They can decide to bring it inside and do it themselves. They have all these choices but your job is to create a preference to say, "I want to work with this person specifically because. "Why do I prefer you?" Listening will help you get a long way there. Information disparity will help you get the rest of the way. And so the the idea behind challenge your sale, a big part of it is information disparity. I know things that you don't know. And if you know things that I don't know, then I can count on you to do some thinking for me. And an ERP solution, the person that's buying that hopes to make that decision once in their life and no more than twice. And you do it for thousands of companies so your view of the problem is very different then their view of the problem. And you have a greater experience so this is better than that. How do we know, we do it thousands of times. You do it once or twice in your life. So you can be my outsource expert in this area because you know more than I do. So I don't need to be an expert other than I need to know what my company needs. But right on this border, this is their business, this is our business. Right where they come together that's where you have to be the expert. You have to be a peer in that even if you're a creative. What they want in the way of graphic design, or a videographer. What you know, where that comes together with what they need, that's where you have to be over-indexed on information and value creation. That's the spot where you play. You don't have to know their business as well as they do. You have to know how to get the result for their business because that's where you work. And I want to speak just for another minute about preference. Selling is a zero-sum game and I have friends who get unhappy when I talk about this this way but we have to talk about it. Someone wins and someone loses and we don't like to talk about that because we want everybody to get a trophy at the end. You do have to operate from a place of abundance. There are plenty of opportunities for everybody who's gonna pursue them professionally but you are supposed to be trying to win. You are supposed to be trying to create a preference to work with you. And so every interaction the other person has to feel like I would rather work with you than someone else. That's the game of preference. That's how you're gonna get these commitments to take the next step because you create greater value. So I wanna give you just a couple words I wrote down here so I could share them with you. You have to be credible. You have to be somebody who knows what they're talking about. I can't prefer to work with you if you know nothing or you're not deep in your insight. You have to be reliable. You have to do what you say you're gonna do. If you say this is gonna happen. It has to happen. And we're gonna take a deeper dive into intimacy next but you have to have intimacy. And when I say that sales people are like, "Intimacy?" Not like that. Intimacy like I know you. I understand you. I know what you care about. I can help you. You have to be of that kind of intimacy. And you have to be other-oriented. And I just had a buddy who made a video a couple of weeks ago, that you shouldn't try to be likable. But of course you should be likable, especially if I have to work with you for a long time. I don't want to work with somebody who's really smart but no fun to be around, and is a bit of a jerk. I don't have to work with you. I can work with somebody who's gonna give me a better experience than that. So all of these human things start to come into equation. So let's talk about the commitment to change. This is a hard one for sales people to ask because it comes sooner than we think, and before we invest all the time to move forward with people. It's better to ask this question. You're just gonna say something like, "Laura if these ideas are important to you "and if these trends are gonna impact your business "the way we've been discussing. "Does it make sense to do something now? "And are we gonna be able to get the support of your team "and the financial investment to be able to do this? "Or should we be doing something else right now?" That's it. I have to ask that question. Because if she says, "Listen, all these things are important to us "but right now there's absolutely no way "it gets onto our project board. "We're covered up right now. "That's probably 24 or 36 months off for us." Then I can say, "What should we be doing in the mean time "to position you for that?" But now I had this real conversation about change. So when you see those 10 commitments lined up, I don't spend months and months on those other commitments to find out that there was never any real commitment to change. We have to have some commitment to each other to engage in this process. Especially in a B to B sale. That's really what we're trying to do is get this commitment to change. 'Cause if we get this then we can move forward with all the other commitments and know that we're gonna get some result at the end of this. And then we have to ask for the commitment to collaborate. This one can be tricky too. And I never thought it was but then I've started having feedback come to me that this can be tricky. And this is what it sounds like. "I'd like to ask you if we can share some ideas." Again we're back to sharing right? "And I'd like to get your feedback on these ideas "and we'll adjust these together to make sure whatever we do "fits perfectly for you and your team." That's the question that I'm gonna ask. And I didn't expect so many people to give me the feedback that they hear, "Wait, you're supposed to be the expert here. "You tell us what we should be doing." And you are an expert, and you can tell them what they're supposed to do but you have to be able to push back on that and say, "I'm happy to share with you our best ideas "but we need to make sure that this is something "that the rest of your team "is gonna be able to go along with. "So I'll ask you to share with me "what your feedback is on this "and we'll see if we can make adjustments." Because there's three types of proposals that you're gonna hand over. Yours, which means you own it and they didn't contribute to it at all. Theirs, they told you what they wanted. You got an RFP. You filled it out and said, "Yes, I'll give you all these thing." Or ours, the one that we built together. And if you build it together you created that preference and you build something that has a greater likelihood of working over time. You need them to share their ideas and you need to build something together. That's the way that we're looking at it. You're also gonna get a little bit of push back on this of, "Just show us what we need to do. "Just give me a proposal." You're gonna get that pushback too and it's too soon to give them a proposal so you have to say, "Listen, if I could share with you "what works the very best. "If we spent a little bit of time here. "Everything later on is gonna go faster "and it's gonna be right, and it's gonna be something "that delivers a result. "Can we have a couple meetings "just to make sure that we tighten this up for you?" But you do have to occupy this role of trusted advisor and not just accept that. You gotta push back and you've got to try to do what's right. Even when it's not easy. And now I'm at Q and A.
Moving through the levels of a new customer, what are your thoughts to start with the low-end offer building momentum of proof and then upsell as the customer warms to you?
I don't think that there's one right answer. And what was the persons name?
So Greg, I don't think that there's ever one answer. If somebody wants to give you an order and they want to start developing that relationship. You probably have to take it but you probably have to start by saying, "I'm happy to get working on this for you right now "but what I would to ask is that "we still have these meetings so that I can make sure "that what we're doing is gonna be exactly right. "And that we create the right level of value for you." That's the way that I would handle this. If they want help right now, I'm not gonna deprive them of the help and say, "Listen we have to do all this stuff before I can help you. "I'll help you and I'll give you this." But I do think that it matters that you still try to control the process and establish yourself as somebody who creates that greater value. Because I don't want you to get pigeon-holed or boxed into some idea that this person is transactional. All they do is take the order and deliver. Instead I'll take the order but then I still have to go through this value creation piece to be able to generate those results.
Also, Chris had asked, "How close do you make those three phone calls "that you were speaking about earlier. "For example, I'm always scared "that they're too close together. "Is there an ideal time between contact?"
Too close together is three days in a row. (group laughing) There is not that much urgency on their side so you're just way out of line. Like, okay, I get it. And then you're probably gonna cause the person to say, "I'm just not gonna take their call now "because they're being too much of a nuisance." I think three calls in three weeks and not always on the same day. Just push it out, push it out but let them know that you're gonna call back. I think over three weeks is probably a good cadence. And I think that when you push it too close together you start to be an annoying person. You don't want a restraining order. I mean you're not trying to get them so riled up that they're like, "Block this number "from ever being able to call again."
You said that you recommend different media to reach out to people. I am finding that people are moving away from phones in-house. How do we combat that?
You're in San Francisco.
Okay, so in this part of the world that's becoming true. And it's very difficult to do this. So a lot of things, The one thing about sales organization and sales people, I always here people say, "Buyers are evolving faster than sales people." Impossible, impossible. We change really fast when we need to 'cause we have a lot riding on it. So I think that some of the things, they are gonna be on LinkedIn for sure. We're gonna be able to find them on that platform. I don't think email's great but I think you have to use it. I also see right now a lot of people creating videos and sending someone a video because that video does get looked at and it starts to give you a different view of who that person is. I think that you're gonna have to work a lot harder on referrals and real networking. Real networking where people show up and introduce each other. I think you're gonna have to work with your peers more to get introduced to people and using things like LinkedIn and a platform like that to actually make real introductions. Which is what it was designed for originally. Is to actually be able to do that. When I got on LinkedIn and I had 80 connections, I knew all of them. Now I have 17,500 and those 80 still. Those are the 80 that I still know. So when you ask can you recommend this person? I have no idea who that person is. They just started following me and asked for a connection and I said yes. But I think you're gonna have to get creative. I also think that you are gonna get this number soon, and we are gonna use this. And I would tell you my experience with somebody I've done some work for. He was 52 years old at the time and I started texting him. I didn't have any conversation about it. I just started sending text messages. So the phone-call would go to voice-mail and he'd get back to me at some time when he had time for a conversation. But the text answers would come right back. And I'm like, "Okay, text, that's good." And I'm thinking what is this guy doing texting all the time? And I asked him the question, "I said why do you prefer text." And he goes, "I didn't know I preferred text?" I said, "Well your behavior says you prefer text "'cause you always answer me and you don't on the phone." And he said, "I don't know." And I said, "You have kids don't you." And he said , "Yes." And I said, "They're teenagers right?" And he said, "Yes." I said, "They taught you to text "because that's how you communicate with them." He goes, "That's exactly how I started texting." But what I like about it is I can tell you yes or no and I'm done. So I think you're gonna be texting a lot of people because this is the device that's always in everyone's left hand. And much to my dismay when I walk through airports and I walk into the restroom there are people talking on their phone while they're in the restroom. They can't get away from this. This is always in their left hand no matter where they are. No matter what they're doing. The disappointing part of this is that you know the text went through. When you don't get the response that you are actually being ignored. Because there's no doubt that they saw it, they're just ignoring you Dave. And then you have to try again.