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Find Your Client’s Motivation First, Not Yours

Solution.

Problem.

Motivation.

Many times, I see people frame their “ask” of clients in this order. Right out of the gate, they speak about a great service or product they’ve come to discuss. They move next to saying that the solution will fix a problem the client has. And lastly, they will relate that solution to something they believe will motivate the client to say, “Yes…I’m in.”

This is all backwards, as a client of mine found out recently.

He asked me for some help in framing an “ask.” He was worried his client would take it as a condemnation of how things were being handle by him, and his team. He knew he had a good solution but, it would involve a new process that dealt with a serious shortcoming. Product….then solution.

The issue here is that you are telling a client they are doing something wrong or, they are wrong for not knowing something could be done better. That’s not a strong motivator for anyone. And there’s the key focus…motivation. That’s really what you are there to do, right? Persuade your audience so that they are motivated to accept your solution?

In business we’re often pressed to produce a result or fix an issue with no time to design our “ask.” Try asking yourself, “What’s the motivator for the person I’m presenting my ask?”
Here’s a hint, 9 out of 10 times their motivator is NOT yours.

By declaring your “ask” too frequently you risk getting the reputation of “its his/her way or the highway/she’s difficult to work with”, or worse “she’s quite selfish”…etc.

Its better to to pause/think and ask yourself, what’s the motivator for my listener?

I did this with my client and he suddenly had a revelation…by instituting the process he was recommending, his client’s head of sales would actually sell more product at the best margin. “That’s how you initiate the conversation,” I said to him. And we crafted his ask by starting with, “I’ve got an idea on how to increase sales with the best margin.” Now they are on the same wavelength.

 

Try re-ordering your next presentation with motivation as the lead. Let me know how your communication goes!

I am a GREAT salesperson!

A bold statement. And it was said to me by a prospective client at our first meeting! As I heard him say this I was slightly taken aback and countered with, “That’s great to hear. I’m curious, though, what’s one skill you’d like to strengthen as we look at our potential collaboration together?”

He said, “I never really know how to close once I’ve delivered my presentation.”

Sales Have to Be Closed to Happen

My internal reaction was “but you JUST said that you are a great salesman!” Anyone in sales knows how important closing is and if you’ve worked with me, you know I work on effective and efficient deal closing until the skill becomes second nature. So, I asked him to give me an example of this challenge. He did and it became clear to me that he was not finding and staying in the pain. Here’s what I mean by that:

Closing Starts with Questioning

We ended up speaking at length about how exactly to probe a potential client to understand their goals and challenges. I stressed that if you ask the right questions, you will get the right answers that will help you tailor recommendations. I’ve said it before and said it to him….listen more, talk less. If you hear your own voice far more than that of your potential client, you are not learning…you are lecturing. Keeping them engaged in their pain points and getting deeper explanations through probing questions will open up possibilities for you to give short, precise counsel. And that will help you stand above your competition.

At the end of our meeting he confidently said: “This would help me close wouldn’t it?” I graciously said “Yes. You’re now ready to engage with anyone providing you listen first, recommend second.” This applies to you (and me), too. Make sure you prove to your client you’ve heard and understood them. This affirms your client. It says, ”knowing your world is essential to your understanding my world.”

Be in the pain with them and together, you’ll get out of it!

Are you a great salesperson? Regardless of your answer, what’s a skill you wish was stronger?

Before You Call: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

numbers on a gray phoneEmail. Text. Chat. Voicemail. All of these have become common ways in which we communicate with clients and business associates. But what about the big one…the phone call! Lost in our digital age is the importance a phone call can have in determining the future of your business relationships. And yet, many times I’ve witnessed seasoned executives as well as new sales people stumble when faced with talking with their clients.

Three Key Questions Before Calling

Many people have a deep fear of public speaking. So it is no surprise that the phone call, which itself is a mini-form of public speaking, can be intimidating. To help build confidence, I advise that people ask themselves three key questions prior to picking up the phone:

1) How am I memorable?

There must be something that sets your company and its product/service apart from your competition. Do you know what is? And is that based on up-to-date information? What advantages do you bring to the table? This question forces you to uncover the core of who you are and why your offering is worth sharing with your client. Bullet point the key selling points and have them in front of you before calling.

2) Am I prepared?

What will your client, or prospective client, want to know? This requires homework since you will need to know their current challenges. Are you bringing relevant information to them that will help alleviate one or more of those challenges? If not, then why are you taking up their time? You need to be on top of the business landscape in which your client operates. Not doing so relegates this phone call to being just like any other your client has gotten. Remember…you need to be memorable (see above!).

Another thing to consider when preparing is…are you ready to talk with the boss? Various scenarios could unfold that have you speaking to the CEO or another executive in charge. For example, your client contact could answer and, by chance, have the CEO in the room. Is what you have to say today CEO-worthy? It should be and good preparation to that level will pay off regardless.

3) What do I want to happen?

Wow…if you don’t know the answer to this one before picking up the phone, you’re sunk! However, if you know what you want the result of the call to be, then it will be easier for you to make that happen. What goal have you set for the call? Is it consistent with your client’s goals? “I want to tell him about our new product” is not good enough. That’s about you, not them. “I want to solve their inventory management problem with our new product that will save them time and money” is a far better goal, right?

Phone calls have become a bit of a rarity these days. Be different. Call! But be sure you answer these questions first.

How often do you call your clients? Do you find it more, or less, effective than digital communication? Let me know. -SG

Barriers to Achieving Objectives, aka No Client Left Behind

Recently, a client lamented that he and his firm lost a multi-million dollar order. The CEO, who had not been involved in the process, stopped the expected transaction…after my client had invested a year’s worth of relationship building with the two execs that reported to the CEO. Hence the phrase; no client left behind!

I felt terrible for my client when I heard the news. As we deconstructed the crime, we realized there were THREE other executives who factored into the decision making process that were not met with, let alone tucked in. We’ve all heard and respected the phrase, “Selling starts at ‘No.'” My client didn’t get a chance to hear “No” from many decision makes until it was too late. A great client once said to me “In business, it’s always good to be a little paranoid.” He’s not wrong. In fact, this needs to be an operating principle.

The Money Guy Does The Talking

When you operate from the idea that something can always go wrong, you naturally understand it’s mission critical to determine early on in the process who the decision makers are who will factor into choosing, or not, your product or service. As I explain in the video below, it’s paramount not only to know who these people are but, to meet with them separately. Otherwise, you’ll only hear from the person in the room who makes the most money!

Do not only meet with people in a group. As you meet/vet each decision maker,  you will uncover what’s core to them relative to your recommendation. This will move you closer to a “Yes” and further away from the “No.” The executive will start to get a feeling that their individual wants and goals are being considered, giving them a vested interest in the outcome…not just a group mentality.

Understand Everyone’s Barriers

Many years ago, my first sales manager, Nick, once said to me “You’ve got five minutes to understand what the barriers are to your recommendation…and it’s the first five minutes.” That’s a little too abrupt, but he was correct in that as you initiate relationships with these four to six decision makers, you must understand what barriers could block you early on in the process. As Nick also said, “If you get the objection when you’re closing, it’s too late.” Give yourself a chance early to discover roadblocks and determine how to resolve them.

You’ve got to endear yourself first, then your recommendation, to each decision maker. You will do that by listening first, selling second.  The deeper you understand what’s important to each decision maker the clearer you’ll be in how to communicate and compel them.

Ever get blind-sided by a “silent” decision maker…the person you never knew about who holds the strings? Tell me about it in the comments. – SG

Winning Clients with Empathy

A few days ago, I visited with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. She told me the reason for the longer duration between visits was due to a brain tumor she had recently removed.

Needles to say, I was floored. Though I became quite emotional, I restrained myself in order to begin my natural style of empathetic probing to understand her epic journey and recovery.

Through her recounting of the ordeal, she spoke glowingly of the surgeon she chose for the resection along with the surgeons she didn’t. The surgeons she walked away from made her feel like a number with hardly any understanding of her actual physiology or the procedure they would perform.

The surgeon she hired came to her bedside with iPad photos of her MRI and X-rays and walked her through the exact procedure he would perform. She felt special and, more importantly, she said because of his explanation and humanity, “I wasn’t afraid, I was ready for it.”

Put Your Clients at Ease

At that moment it hit me. Our responsibility as consultants, business leaders and managers is to make clients feel the same way…at ease.

This past week I received a phone call from a potential client who began her conversation with the phrase: ”I’m in a pickle.” I listened for several minutes about her frustration and recommended we meet.

Hear Them Out, Then Recommend

During our meeting, I fully vetted the frustrations she experienced while trying to find a coach for her executive team. I realized throughout her search she had not felt confident in the people she’d interviewed nor confident in their coaching methodology.

I knew I could help and offered to create a program for her team. As our conversation came to a close, she asked me for my fee for this program. I responded by saying unless I meet with each executive and personally interview them, I couldn’t quote a fee. She smiled and said “let’s get started.” I did a bit of a double take and asked how she came to this automatic decision. She said no one else was concerned about her executives enough to want to meet them.

This interaction, along with my friend reminded me of my father’s great bedside manner with a patient. He would draw the entire operation out and explain every inch of the procedure to instill confidence in them.

My wish for you as a leader is you embody the humanity of a surgeon throughout your client interactions. It pays off!

The “So Now What?” Moment is Here

Last week, I gave you the stark news that the holidays are over and we arrived at “the morning after.” As a result, and maybe you’ve felt it too, the “So Now What?” moment is here.   Read more

Top Leadership and Sales Training Posts – 2014

Steve G 04/15/09What a year! We’ve seen so much change in the world and at home. During the next few weeks, news outlets will flood the airwaves and print with reviews of the best (and worst) of 2014 so, I thought I’d follow suit. Read more

2015 Client Planning: Be More Open Than Right

One week to go before the holiday distractions arrive (parties, vacations, last-minute shopping)…how’s it going?

On the shoulders of my last post about questions to ask clients before 2015, I’ve realized throughout my end-of-year client interactions how essential it is to remain open and curious versus right. And I know I’m right about that! Read more

The Four Essential Questions to Ask Clients…NOW!

Well, it’s December. Where did the time go? Here in New York City, we went from a two day Fall to what seems like will be a long time Winter! And we will soon enter the days of company and family holiday parties and other distractions. What might get lost is that NOW is the time for you to establish your position with clients for 2015. We’ve got eight days to accomplish this. Come December 16, it will be “Happy Holidays” and “See you next year!”

In other words…too late!

Hear Them Out First

Yes, you need to be prepared to give a thorough synopsis of your business with your clients. You will have the opportunity to tell them how you believe your team did this year and regale them with all that you’ve accomplished on their behalf. But wait! First, you need to hear how THEY think you did and what issues they are anticipating for 2015. To do that, I recommend the following four questions that you ask (and do it soon!).

Four Client Questions to Ask Now!

Asking these four questions before entering 2015 will illustrate your concern for your client’s world next year and your desire to further your partnership with them:

  1. How did 2014 close out for you and your team/organization?
  2. What is mission-critical for you next year?
  3. What challenges will you have to neutralize?
  4. How do you see our relationship growing/expanding?

Genuinely Listen

Ask these questions with optimism, alacrity and curiosity. Be genuine in your listening, which means that you must really be attentive and responsive to what they are saying. Repeat their issues back to them so they know you comprehend what they’ve said. Ask them if you have captured the issues correctly. Don’t be afraid to ask for more explanation or clarification. I have found that simply saying, “Really?’ can lead to an even deeper look by a client at what their future plans entail…which is great for you to know, right?

Remember, no matter what your client expresses, you’ve credentialed yourself by asking these empathetic questions that further establishes your partnership. The “color” you’ll receive is important to think about throughout the holidays to design/plan your response to their core issues.

And did I mention…do it now!! Let me know how it goes.

Why Patience Is Not a Virture…It’s Required

I observe between 60 to 100 executives per year as they hone their consulting/advising skills. I am always amazed and impressed with the ones who have the innate ability to quiet themselves so that their audience has time to process and respond. They resist the temptation to interrupt with more information.

I need to see more of this. Read more