What is the best way to help people discover how they make the best decisions for them and their business?
If you were to ask a typical salesperson how they go about this, they say it’s easy. “Ask the buyer a series of question to identify the pain and then position their solution to address that pain. The more costly the pain the more valuable the solution!”
For this to work then the buyer has to trust the salesperson, they need to feel confident that they have identified the “real pain” and the proposed solution is the best way to address the pain.
Here is the rub – the ultimate 21st Century Oxymoron is “Trust a salesperson”.
Now every “sales guru” will tell you that in order to re-introduce trust salespeople have to “walk in the customer’s shoes”, share insights, become trusted advisors, etc. Yes, all of that is true, but too often they do not tell people how to do this, and most importantly how to break the traditional discovery model of asking lots of questions to “help” the buyer uncover their real pain.
Now some of these gurus are starting to introduce the idea of a customer or buyer centric discovery process that is less about interrogation and more about having a conversation, but again they do not tell you how to do this. It would appear that for many people the idea of helping people discover things using a method other than advanced interrogation techniques is just mind-blowingly difficult.
Now I personally find this surprising, as it would seem obvious to me that a model that uses interrogation techniques (structured questioning) to force a solution on to the buyer is less appealing than allowing the buyer to discover things for themselves.
So, what is the issue?
In a conversation today I discovered that I was unconsciously competent at this, not because I was more educated (I am not), generally brighter (only in clothing) or more empathetic (definitely not), it was that my background gave me an advantage (no not just white privilege). It was my Jewish background that gave me an advantage, or more specifically a model of study that I have been brought up with, known as Chavrusa.
Chavrusa is a model that is based on people (often pairs but can be more) learning something together and analysing, discussing, debating each point and until there is some form of consensus (which can be to ‘agree to disagree’) on the point in question. Anyone involved in Jewish learning is well versed in having “heated debates” to try and fully understand the point and constantly striving to generate consensus, even though it may be a fruitless exercise.
So how does this help me help people discover things for themselves and drive consensus?
The answer is that I am always open to a discussion, whilst I may be highly opinionated, I know that I have to listen and prove my point and that just telling people I am right does not count for anything. The discussion should be heated and passionate, it should be based on the opportunity to disagree and drive towards consensus. No-one is the expert, instead it is a discussion of equals, both trying to understand and create consensus.
Imagine if your sales calls were based on Chavrusa:
- It starts with mutual respect, yes, the potential buyer may know things and be correct.
- The salesperson has to turn up prepared with a level of knowledge (insights) which they will be able to use to start the discussion. That way they can always ensure that they can know something to share, validate the impact and earn the right to ask additional questions.
- It is a conversation not an interrogation which allows the buyer to discover what they need in order to move through their buying process.
- Everything is focussed on validating understanding and agreeing a way-forward. The outcome is as important as the discussion!
- Consensus will be generated, even it is that you agree to disagree it is done with respect, always leaving the door open for more conversations.
As a buyer I know that I want to have conversations, not have an “expert” salesperson sell me their solution. As a seller I know I have more success when I have a conversation about the prospect and their business and create value along the way by sharing insights that trigger discussions.
Now rather than looking for prospects I realise that I should be looking for my Chavrusa partner, maybe you are interested in doing the same.