It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? You might have had a different experience. But here’s something that I’ve observed. Einstein had it figured out when he said, “every solution should be as simple as possible – and no simpler.”
When I first read this quote it stuck with me instantly. I remembered it days later. I had this visual image of Einstein with the funny hair and a blackboard behind him with E=MC2 written on it in chalk. The visual image made the quote even more memorable.
Isn’t it funny how a simple message can have such an impact? What would you give to be able to be that memorable to potential customers?
Why is that important? Because in this environment, can you really afford to lose even one single deal that you could have or should have gotten? Are you struggling to find those new customers in these tough times?
I’d like to suggest something that I’ve found has really worked for me. It might work for you as well. Only you can find that out for yourself. Your experience could be different. But take a second and think about this.
Two nights ago I went to see Shelle Rose Charvet speak at a meeting of the our Strategy special interest group of the Toronto CMC Chapter. Shelle said a number of amazing things, but she left me with an image that I can’t get out of my head. Actually, it was two images — but if you want the second one, you have to hear her speak. She knows what it is. I think of her talk at least once a day. It turns out that’s healthy. But even if I tried to forget it, I couldn’t. And I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday. So making me remember two things is quite an achievement!
Let’s return to that first image. Here’s what she said — I wrote it down so I’d get it exactly. It might not be perfect, I wrote it quickly, but I’m sure she will correct me if it’s not right.
Here’s what I heard.
“In order to get someone to go somewhere with you, you need to meet them where they are…”
Shelle went on to make another point. She feels that many times our real competition might not be competitors. The real thing that’s preventing us from winning the sale may be that the client has other alternatives. One of those alternatives is to do nothing. The other is to study the issue – put it off.
She suggested that we need is to find a way to convince our clients that they need us more than ever. Shelle also went on to explain why we can have the best product or service and still lose the deal. Or why sometimes our own honest enthusiasm might be working against our message! I appreciate that all of this might sound a little over the top so let me share something from my own experience.
I’ve been following Shelle’s work for a few years now. Recently I had a client who had a problem. They had a product which would legitimately save their customers money. It had added benefits as well. It offered them ways to access new services. Interestingly enough, this other product was not only good for my client’s customers, it was much more profitable for my client. So imagine how frustrating it must have been to find out that they could not convince customers to switch.
They told me that their customers preferred the first (less profitable) product. They could not be convinced to switch.
As someone who cannot resist a good problem, I wanted to see if I could help them (as Shelle would say) re-frame the issue. Or as I might call it — to change the game. I had some ideas I thought might work, and I asked them if we could do a pilot to test them out.
So here’s what we did. We stopped selling. We asked customers if we could help them. We created a script which asked customers what their needs were and we asked permission to explain the differences between the two options. We explained these options clearly and objectively (we’d prepared this well). What happened? In our tests, we converted 60 percent of the people to the cheaper, but more profitable option.
Remember that my client was convinced this wouldn’t work? the results immediately raised some skepticism. So they should. They have every right to be skeptical about results like these. It’s a good thing. And I wanted to be careful not to “oversell” this. I was clear that their results could be different in other stores, other circumstances. But I got the chance to ask a question. I got the chance to ask what benefit they would get if the results were 1/10th of what we got in the pilot?
When even the skeptics went to work on this, they had to admit to themselves that this was worth a try.
Why did this work? The underlying principles came from reading one of Shelle’s books “Words That Change Minds”. I tell people that the reason my consulting gets results is not that I have to be smarter than everyone else. I just have to be smart enough to recognize great ideas an adapt them to what I do. Shelle has given me a number of those ideas over the years in her book. So it was very rewarding for me after all these years to be able to sit in the audience and hear her talking about things that I had thought about over the years since I first discovered her book in our company library.
And as always, she was reframing the issue so I could see it in a new way. If you want to get someone to go somewhere with you, you have to meet them where they are. We did that. We got to them in the store as they were in the process of making their decision. But we knew from surveys that customers wanted to be helped, not sold. We devised this so that it was clear and helpful — no sales, we simply gave them the facts they needed to make an informed decision and invited them to make up their own minds.
If we’d started where we were, we would have been trying to convince them. Even if we were right, even if we were enthusiastic, we would have been making them even more skeptical and less likely to hear our message.
So I’ve been asking myself a question. How many times am I missing opportunities because I am not going to where my clients are? As a consultant, I fall into the trap myself. I might be good at spotting issues with clients, but missing them in my own work. My own filters might keep me from seeing myself clearly. Sometimes even the best of us need a good mirror. That’s what Shelle’s presentation was for me. And what her work has been for me over the years. It’s a chance to hold up a mirror and take a clear look at how my message is being (or not being) received. By seeing it clearly, I can remove the obstacles to my own success — in the same way that I remove them for others.
So to my friend Bob who started this out with his question this morning. If you are reading this, that’s the answer to the question you asked (half in jest) this morning. Your question was right on the money. I hope I got it right You asked, if I’d read Shelle’s book so many times, why didn’t I spot these issues earlier? Correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll fix it. (The wonderful thing about a blog!)
I might suggest suggest that I’ve done some very good work for my customers. Do you remember that famous quote from Archimedes? I think we all learned it in school. “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
I’d like my clients to think of my services in that way. I can help them leverage what they do now and transform their efforts so they can do things they never thought possible. I can help them solve tough problems. The solutions are what they need them to be. For some, its that extra customer, for others, it’s reducing costs, for others its getting their teams to work together effectively. Some just want to hold the customers they have by building loyalty. They believe that loyal customers stick with you in tough times.
Even my business has challenges. We are a growing business and need to find new customers. Or better still, we need to convince old customers that doing nothing is not an option. I have to help them see why they need my services more than ever. This recession (or whatever it is) is changing customer behaviour. To use Shelle’s visual metaphor, it’s like clients have moved off to a different bus stop. And I can only convince them to get on the bus with me if I go to the bus stop where they are. It’s a timely message that we might all consider.
Everyone — including good consultants — need a look in the mirror from time to time. Because the world changes and our filters — the very things that help us cope with all the information out there, the things that make us successful, can actually prevent us from seeing problems clearly. Even if you are great at seeing what others need, you can still miss it for yourself. Shelle helped me once again, to reframe and see a challenge that I have.
so I came out of Shelle’s workshop with a list of notes. I’ve learned that if I want to get a lot out of an event, I have to listen carefully. Some speakers make that hard. Some make it easy to listen.
Shelle not only makes it easy, she explains how you can do that as well.
I hope I will never stop improving. So I set some goals. I will try to meet my clients where they are. I will expect them to be skeptical if I talk about all the great results that they will get. I will ask even more about their problems. I’ll remember to ask them what matters to them and why. I’ll continue a habit that Shelle taught me long ago – I’ll capture the answer in their words and not mine. I want to meet them where they are and not where I think they should be. If I can do that, I can invite them on the bus with me and we can take a journey together. That’s the type of work I think I’m good at. It’s also the type of work I love.
Thanks, Bob for raising that question. Thanks to Shelle for helping me see an issue that I can share with my friends, colleagues and readers.
Note for anyone who missed this workshop. Shelle is having two more workshops which are sponsored by CMC Canada in Toronto. Contact CMC Canada if you want more information about these workshops. Check out Shelle’s web-site if you want to find out more about her. You have to make up your own mind. All I can tell you is that her advice has helped me a lot 😉