Thinking of Others

Going from "me" centric to "other" centric selling

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“The only way on Earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

— Dale Carnegie

I saw a car ad over the weekend with this cool tech called remote parking assist. You can direct the car to move out of a tight parking spot with a click of your key and AI inside the car does the rest. As someone that is a techie at heart, I love seeing technology in action and improving our daily lives.

The ad promoting this cool tech left me with an unsettled feeling though. The woman in the ad has to use remote parking assist because a man in a big pickup truck parks ridiculously close to her car. As she walks to her car with a bag of groceries, he walks off, blocking access to her driver's side door.

Many of us have probably experienced similar type of incidents at some point. It is annoying and eats a little at your soul. Wouldn't it be better if people just parked in a way that did not cause others inconvenience? What if people could just be a bit more considerate in all situations?

Much of the time I spend mentoring sales reps on perception shifting. By that I mean moving from "me" oriented to "other" oriented thinking. It is easy to get caught up in expressing our own views because that is what is in our heads. That is the more comfortable place for us. We don’t know much about our prospect but we sure know our products.

Prospecting outreach is a perfect example. Over 90% of the cold pitches I receive (whether over the phone or email or LinkedIn) I would put in the “me” oriented bucket. They all start off by introducing themselves and their company. Then they talk about their product, the most common use cases, and some successful customers. The only time the message shifts to “other” oriented is when the rep is asking for 15 minutes of my time to chat more.

Some sales reps are bit more advanced. About 9% of the pitches I receive start with a problem I might have. This is better because at least the message is somewhat closer to something I might care about. Then disappointment sets in as I read the rest of the message which slides back to “me” oriented language.

It is the rare 1% of pitches that do not feel like a pitch at all. These sales professionals did their homework and personalized the approach. They first praise me for a recent accomplishment, like congratulating me for my recent book launch. Then they share an interesting or insightful perspective on my accomplishment that expands upon my work. Then and only then do they present the thing they are selling.

A similar breakdown percentage wise happens with demos. The 90% plow through their demo scripts, rarely stopping to ask a question or invite their prospect to share their thoughts. The 9% ask a few questions, but still lean heavily into the demo and their rote questions. However 1% flip the entire experience around and it feels like a coffee chat about problems at work. The demo might or might not even be shown, and if it is, it is context with needs and real situations.

The whole engagement with the 99% of sales reps feels like the process is about them. Meetings are about their next steps they need to record in Salesforce. Requests for time are to ensure their deal is forecasted accurately. The push to meet executives is about checking off the executive sponsor box to advance the deal along the pipeline. Every negotiation and pricing discussion is meant to fit into approved discount tables and commission tiers. The prospect is merely a rider on the deal rollercoaster.

We wonder then why we get ghosted. We think prospects are liars and jerks and tire kickers. But let me stop you right there. The reality is…

You did nothing to get your prospect to care about your solution because you did nothing to care about their problem.

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Only when we stop obsessing about the quota and start obsessing about the customer will we ever become other oriented. One of the 14 leadership principles at Amazon is customer obsession. It is not called revenue obsessed. At Amazon, we understand that if we do right by the customer, we get results.

Which leads me to a recent incident, the infamous Expedia email. Infamous because in a passionately articulated message, the CEO empathically pleaded readers to vote for the Democratic contender in the US Presidential election. Of the ten million customers that received the email, some thought that was awesome. Some won’t do business with Expedia ever again.

It was a polarizing message. One might say as polarizing as the current occupant of the White House in a time that is the most polarized as anyone has ever seen America. Partly this is due to the flood of bad information getting disseminated. This had hardened us to listening and empathizing with others. We can’t see the other perspective. Walking in another’s shoes used to be a thing we might say. Now we are more likely to say no thanks and give someone the finger.

We can be better than this and rise to the occasion as citizens. We can spend some time really listening to others. This does not mean we indulge morally repugnant ideas, but we can seek understanding and maybe not cling so tightly to our perception of truth or believe all the things we see from the headlines.

The civic duty to understand and work with other is no different than in our professional lives. Being other oriented maybe flies in the face of individualistic striving in a dog eat dog world. I think we do better as professionals though when we take a more expansive and abundant view of the world. We do not have to compete against each other. We compete to make our customers, partners, employees, and the world better.

It’s a lofty idea. At Amazon, another of our principles is to Think Big. Here is the big thought I want to share with you, an idea that Dale Carnegie presented over 80 years earlier. Think less about ourselves and more about helping those we sell to. Work in the service of making the lives of others better. If you do that, the results will come.

Cheers,

Mark Birch, Founder of Enterprise Sales Forum

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Sales Tools

I am going to start a segment of the newsletter called sales tools to introduce one cool tool per week. It can be a methodology, a tactic, a technology, or some other thing that enables you to scale your selling effort to be more effective and efficient. If you have any tools you want to recommend, shoot me an email or ping me on LinkedIn.

Following up the newsletter from last week on hiring for sales, I talked about creating a rubric to score sales candidates. Here is a very basic sample of what I am talking about that I used for hiring SDR for an early stage startup:

No fancy tech is required, just a shared Google Sheet and leaving columns for each interviewer. One tip here is I always ask as the first question of a candidate to explain what the company does. If a candidate did not even bother doing the basic research about the company they are interviewing for, that is an instant fail and I immediately end the interview. Hat tip to Trish Bertuzzi for that tip.

If you want to learn more tips, or have questions about building a scoring rubric, paid members to this newsletter get a free 30 minute mentoring session with me.