After the roller coaster ride of sales and technical business development in 2009, I’ve taken the time to examine what’s important to me in terms of how I approach my client relationships. I’ve also taken the time to re-examine how I process information – sales and technical – and how well I communicate what I need to know to the folks I need to know it from. I figure if I can ask better questions, my customers and prospects can give me better answers.
2009 was such a non-traditional business year. Yes, an understatement. It profoundly affected how I now view the entire business development process. So I don’t view 2010 as being a return to the status quo or whatever things were like in 2008, either. Since 2009 rocked my boat – in fact, it rocked everyone’s boat, didn’t it? – I decided to continue rocking my boat. I liked how it felt. Go figure.
Boat rocking keeps me on my toes. I don’t take anything for granted. I don’t make any assumptions. I don’t forget to do my homework when developing new business relationships. I don’t lump my customers and prospects together in terms of a “one approach fits all” business development strategy.
In fact, I go about developing business as though the boat might capsize tomorrow.
Rocking my own boat helps me develop a sense of balance in terms of which customers are just kicking the proverbial tires and which customers are serious in terms of doing business with me. Rocking my own boat keeps my conversation fresh and engaged in what my clients and prospects are saying to me. Rocking my own boat keeps me searching for new ways to identify the factors impacting their decision to buy.
Now, let me clarify myself here. I’m not looking for new ways to manipulate folks into buying what I am selling. I’m looking for questions I need to be asking to assist people in identifying the offline factors impacting the decisions they make daily.
Your customers aren’t going to decide to buy what you are selling until you stop forcing the conversation towards your solution – as their only solution I might add. Your clients and prospects are expecting you to “sell” them. They want you to “pitch” them. So they can commoditize you, quite frankly, as a “typical sales rep” or “typical sales engineer.” However, they just might not be ready to make a decision, even if you are driven to “sell” your solution to them. Even if your solution is right for them.
So I’m learning how to rock my boat and keep it upright. I’m reading a lot of books. Taking training courses. Communicating with clients. Asking questions of peers. Asking a lot better questions of my customers and prospects that impacts how they put information together towards solving their own problems.
Because, like the Wizard of Oz, there’s always somebody (or lots of “somebodies”) behind the curtain pulling lots of strings and jerking chains that are impacting my Client’s decision to purchase a solution or product, from me or anyone. And I figure if I can get a handle on identifying these factors, and ask good questions up front that allow that individual or team to understand the ducks they need to have in a row, I bring value to our relationship.
Making a decision is the hardest thing we ask our customers and prospects to do.I need to understand the decision making process better. This decision making process is not selling, or closing the sale. It’s everything that precedes the actual sales process. It’s why folks decide to place a solution in the first place. It’s why folks decide to put making that decision on hold.
After all, my customers and prospects are the ones with the answers, not me. They best understand how their internal systems work. And I need to understand how to understand their internal systems. Because it impacts their decision making processes and my business development cycle.
A bit complex, yes.
That’s how I am rocking my own boat in 2010.
What are you doing to rock yours?