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Value Clarity: Beware of Knowledge Dumping

Mastering the Customer Conversation


      It’s hard to believe, but 30 years ago (this May) I was graduating from Miami University in beautiful Oxford, OH. After graduation, I had the fortunate opportunity at the age of 21 to enter the Pharmaceutical Industry as a territory manager. Have you ever received an opportunity where you felt the dichotomy of a tremendous blessing with the overwhelming fear of whether or not you can actually succeed? Well, that was me. 


      I remember going to training. In my new hire class we had nurses, pharmacists, seasoned pharmaceutical sales reps, and other team members with backgrounds in more science-related fields than I had. I also remember entering the training thinking that the only way that I could compete was to work harder than those around me by digging in and getting it done. Then it happened, we were hit with the avalanche of materials, processes, training, exams, and role-plays. It was at this point that I entered the “Pharmaceutical Rep Factory” – review disease backgrounders, clinical backgrounders, product modules, brand message training, objection handling, and then the ever torturous live training and role-play scenarios!


      Every day in the mail, I would receive package after package. After weeks of studying, the next step was getting on a plane to fly into New Jersey, where I would spend three weeks learning more, practicing more, and yes, more ROLE PLAYS. What sales professional hasn’t been through the gauntlet of role plays? Almost three months into my training, the day came when I was finally certified to go out into the field and start my customer conversations. I had made it through the Parke-Davis scientific think tank. It was no joke. The training team made me into a knowledge machine and my highest level of knowledge was product value. 


      By all definitions, I should have been ready to go out into the world and sell with value-based features and benefits! Does this experience sound familiar to anyone else? Have you or are you being trained this way? If so, here is the question for today – how do you define value, and what do you do with it?


      We hear it from our clients all the time; our team members value sell every day, yet the value selling isn’t shrinking the gap of eroding market share, longer sales cycles, and frequent discounting. Here is a harsh reality. Unless your customer is already buying from you or exceedingly motivated, you are losing opportunities based on two issues.


  1. Not putting the value statements in the appropriate order of the customer conversation.
  2. Not linking the value statements back to the buyers’ actual unique challenges or problems.


      This may sound simple, but challenge yourself today. How many sales customer conversations do you have where you back the proverbial dump truck of knowledge onto your prospective buyer? By doing this, you miss one of the two critical steps listed above. In order to stand out above the rest, we, as professional communicators, must think differently about our customer conversations and where we place our value statements.


Here are some practical tips: 


  1. Know your product or service value drivers better than anyone (the rep factory is important).
  2. Be subconsciously competent with this information. Nobody should know more than you.
  3. Once you have this level of knowledge and skill, you will be more apt to naturally connect these value statements to the unique challenges and problems your customers face.  
  4. Place the value statements after you have created a connection, defined the buyers’ gap, and quantified that gap with your customer.
  5. Then, link the value statements back to the actual problem that was agreed upon.


      Guess what more buyers will do? They will feel the urgency behind solving THEIR problem and will make faster buying decisions.





Mastering the Coaching Conversation


      As coaches, we must be persistent with our team members that having excellent product knowledge is great, but it isn’t enough. Value comes from using value statements in the right order and with the proper linking back to our buyers’ unique challenges and problems. You can help your team members take this extra step in their customer conversations. 


      When you are observing customer conversations or having practice sessions with your team, you must actively listen for the transition from value statements to how these statements solve a problem for the customer. Your coaching feedback should reinforce the importance of value-based knowledge, but you must be listening for the link. 


      One suggestion is to take a marketing collateral piece that is filled with product or service value statements and ask a question on each bullet – does this value statement solve a problem that my customer cares about? If the answer is yes, then write down what it addresses and share it with your team. If the answer is no, then get on the phone with marketing ASAP! 

New Year, New You? How Peloton Changed My Perspective

Mastering the Customer Conversation


     On January 8, I received a great e-mail from Apple titled, “Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions – you’ve got goals for 2020. We’ve got apps that can help you reach them.” Thanks, Apple! Then I began to wonder why this email came out on January 8th instead of the last week in December or even the first couple of days in the new year. Here’s why.


     If you believe current estimates, 40 to 45% of you made one or more New Year’s Resolutions. So, let’s do the math – according to current projections, the US population coming into 2020 is ~330 million people. Thus, simple math informs us that over 132 million people made New Year’s Resolutions. 


     In February 2018, TIME magazine published an article referencing that research has shown that about 30% of resolution-makers give up on their goal before they even reach the two-week mark. To make it even worse, by the second week of February, some 80% of those resolution makers are back home with the remorse of disappointment.  Apple clearly knows this so they wanted to offer their “encouragement” right about the time you were starting to give up.  


    So I started to reflect on the #1 ranked resolution of exercising more. About 2.5 years ago, a friend of mine showed me this cool bike in his personal gym called Peloton. I originally had no intention of buying a Peloton, but I did, and now I’m a full-fledged Peloton fanatic.  Here is my Peloton story and how it makes me think differently about New Year’s Resolutions.  


     A little background may help. I’m a 205lb (maybe 210) runner including finishing both half and full marathons. As a runner, I knew the day would come that I would need to begin cross-training more frequently in order to achieve my goals. So about a year ago, I bought my Peloton and it sat in my basement with an occasional ride. There is no doubt that the bike, the trainers, and the technology were worth the investment. The problem was that I didn’t have a passion for cycling and no learning plan to get there. So heading into 2019, I had a New Year’s Resolution to use my bike more frequently in order to EXERCISE MORE. Guess what happened, the goal was established, but my behavior didn’t change UNTIL – my focus changed. 


     As I continued working on my doctoral thesis on coaching, I read a new book entitled “Helping People Change” by Richard Boyatzis, and the lightbulb went off. Change isn’t about just setting a goal and then hoping it happens. In order to really change my behavior, I needed to understand my personal vision for why I wanted to change. Using this book, here is how I reframed my goal of exercising more in 2020. 



  1. Reframe the goal (more exercise) – Moved the goal from my first thought to the last
  2. Reset the real purpose – Focus on why I want to exercise more – more energy, less stress, feeling good in my clothes, etc.
  3. Learning agenda – Understand the why behind various methods and levels of training to build excitement around learning and doing – HIIT (High-Intensity Interval), HRZ (Heart Rate Zone), Low Impact, and Tabata 
  4. Experiment and practice – have fun and reduce fear by experimenting with new rides and runs in my training  
  5. Snapshot Progress with an accountability partner – self-monitor progress in small snapshots in order (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly) and communicate with someone joining in the journey


     One of the most common “goals” for the new year is to increase our income or sales attainment.  That’s always easier said than done, huh? Here’s the hard question for you to ponder:


“What specific skill improvement steps will you take in Q1 that will make you more effective in the customer conversations you will have throughout the year?” 


    Do you need to improve the way you connect?  What about the way you ask questions that are prospect centric vs. self-centered? What specific training, reading or learning do you need to do to ensure you grow your skill in the coming year in a way that will help you exceed your income or sales targets?


    In one of our recent “Driving Change” podcasts here at Braintrust, Tom Ziglar, son of the famed speaker and author Zig Ziglar, said it this way, “Doing what you’ve always done in today’s age will actually get you less than you’re used to getting”.  He’s right. Life is moving way faster for us than previous generations.  We have to do things differently. 


     It is up to each of us to change the narrative. All of us at Braintrust believe that you can drive change in 2020 by changing your mindset. Set your mind on what you want your life to look like on December 31, 2020 then make a list of what needs to be different to make that vision a reality.  From there, set your action plan to remove the barriers preventing you from your best life and begin adding in the actions needed to grow. Let’s do this!   






Boyatzis, R. E., et al. (2019). Helping people change: Coaching with compassion for lifelong learning and growth. Boston, MA, Harvard Business Review Press.


Coaches Corner – Mastering the Coaching Conversation           


     Coaches – Happy New Year! You know what else Peloton has – great coaches. They inspire, push, challenge, and engage with riders and runners both in the studio and through technology. No different than what we do every day as we strive to be great coaches in 2020 with employees that we see face to face and those that we work with remotely. 


      My challenge for us is not to allow ourselves to think that goals are enough. Can you tap into a learning plan for each employee? Don’t leave one employee behind in 2020. As you head out of or into the performance management season, I hope that you sincerely invest the time and energy to identify the learning plan for each employee that will put them on the best path to capitalize on their strengths in order to help them perform at a higher level.       

Source: Lourie Shaull

Purpose – Thanks Salvation Army

Mastering the Customer Conversation


     Do you ever think about how purpose is truly the backbone of your customers’ business? How much do we really know about what is at the core of their business or what is at the heart of the companies they serve? What drives their purpose? 


This is our last blog of 2019, and as I sit and think about the year gone by; it is impossible not to think about my personal and professional purpose. And more importantly, the question I ask myself is “Am I able to live out my personal purpose through my profession”? This is a time that many of us take to be with family and friends and to “re-set” for the coming year. To recharge the batteries a bit. 


This reflection hit me a few weeks ago when I was driving to a client meeting, and I realized that I left my glasses at home. Ten years ago, this wouldn’t have been a problem but today, I needed a solution fast. Fortunately, it is not difficult to find a pair of reading glasses anymore so I pulled over, ran into the store, bought my glasses, and got to my training session on time. As I was leaving the store, I passed the Salvation Army “Red Kettle” and just kept ongoing, like many of us do. I didn’t stop to think about the purpose of the “Red Kettle” that I have seen outside stores since I was a little boy. My agenda had me on a different purpose and I just ran on by. I didn’t give it a second thought until yesterday. 


As I was waking up this morning and began to write this blog, I couldn’t help but think about the “Red Kettle” when it comes to purpose. I see them all the time but I often ignore them and even intentionally use a different door to get to where I need to go faster. Then it hit me, what is the real purpose of the “Red Kettle”? Have you thought about it recently, or ever? Based on this, I went to Google and typed in Red Kettle. 


I’ll save you the time from looking it up:  “In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome – funding the project.” The story goes on to describe how McFee would lay awake at nights worrying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding thousands of the city’s poorest individuals on Christmas Day. 


Based on his past experience, Captain McFee placed a pot near the Oakland Ferry Landing that had a simple sign on it; “Keep the Pot Boiling.” His passion that was filled with a purpose took off from there. Within six years, the kettle idea spread from the west coast to the east coast. Did you know this, “In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden”? Today, the Salvation Army assists more than 4.5 million people during the holiday season and the tradition has spread from the US to Korea, Japan, Chile, and other European countries. Doesn’t this blow your mind – one man saw a need, problem-solved, stayed focused on purpose, and thus led to a sustainable cause that has been in existence since 1891. 


At Braintrust, we recently had a team conversation about our purpose.  It’s always been to help people operate from their place of purpose to help them move from a “sales” mindset to a mindset of “serving” by “solving” problems for their customers that ultimately helps them drive revenue and profits. It is so important to think and “re-set” on your purpose. 


Isn’t it interesting how, when we are stressed in business, that pressure tends to force us into a profit mindset, many times at the expense of purpose.  I have seen this happen and when it is sustained, it can destroy a great company. Ironically, we know that companies and individuals who learn to lead with purpose ultimately have better results when it comes to profit.   


As we reflect on the year that has been and dream about the year to come, it’s our hope that you will take some time to think about your purpose. Think about it from an individual, organizational, and customer level. What I love about the “Red Kettle” is that you don’t really think about the Salvation Army, you think more about the purpose of serving those less fortunate.  What’s your “Red Kettle” going to be in 2020?  


You are a big part of our “Red Kettle”.  To all of you that we have had the opportunity to serve in 2019, we say thanks. To those of you that we hope to have the opportunity to serve in the future, we look forward to that connection. To all of you that read our blogs or listened to our podcasts, we are committed to helping you and your business think deeper, drive change, and grow with purpose. 


As we close out the year, we have a straightforward request. Between now and the end of the year, take a moment, stop by a “Red Kettle,” make a contribution, and realize that you are doing a small part to fulfill a purpose and help someone less fortunate than you.         



Coaches Corner – Mastering the Coaching Conversation           


Coaches, I have five simple questions that I want you to ponder heading into 2020. 


  • Do you understand your purpose?
  • Do you understand the purpose of your team members? 
  • Do you teach people in your team about the purpose of the organization? 
  • Do you understand the purpose of your customers? 
  • Do you believe that serving your people and customers with purpose will lead to profits?
Source: Lourie Shaull

Solutions – Who is the HERO in your customer conversation?

Mastering the Customer Conversation


Ok, here it comes. If you go to the movies or turn on your TV, you know that it is holiday movie time. Potential blockbusters are hitting the theaters, and classic holiday movies seem to be on every channel. At a recent operations meeting within our office, we were discussing great classic holiday movies and a number of them quickly hit the list. The usual suspects came to the forefront; A Christmas Story, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Love Actually, Polar Express, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, and Elf. To my shock and amazement, the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t come up until I referenced it. In fact, a colleague of mine who is a movie buff then says something shocking…”I have never seen it!” Based on that, I went to the internet to see where this classic movie ranks.  


According to goodhousekeeping.com, of the 55+ Best Christmas Movies of All Time, It’s a Wonderful Life ranked #7 out of 57! The caption reads, “This 1946 Frank Capra film isn’t just one of the best Christmas movies of all time – it’s one of the best movies in general. It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for six Academy Awards and ranks #11 on the American Film Institute’s original list of the 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.” (Matthews, 2019) Based on that, this movie is not only relevant to the season, but it is a focal point in this blog – who is the hero in your customer conversations?   


It always fascinates me how classics become classics. Did you know that…

     1. it was originally a 21-page Christmas card before the movie rights were purchased? 

     2. Cary Grant was set to star in the film instead of Jimmy Stewart? 

     3. the movie wasn’t originally a blockbuster? 

     4. it was actually filmed in the summer? 


It has become a classic, so let me set the context of this movie with two key actors in the story. 


In the story you have the Protagonist George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) and Clarence Odbody (played by Henry Travers), who serves as the sage or coach that is sent to help George. If we take this analogy a step further, George is the customer who has a problem and Clarence is sent to help him solve it. 


George lived in Bedford Falls, NY, with his wife Mary and their children. George was the loyal, committed, longtime manager of their small town building and loan company that provided loans to working people so they can buy homes. During troubled times, George knew he couldn’t kick people out of their houses and he wasn’t willing to foreclose on their properties even though he had pressure to do so. (Much like your customer, he had bosses to answer to and goals to meet.)  

Then on Christmas Eve, facing the tension between hurting the townspeople he loved to serve and financial ruin and disgrace, we find him contemplating suicide by jumping off the local bridge.  We are then introduced to the stories sage, Clarence. 


Clarence is an AS2 (Angels Second Class), who after 200 years, has yet to get his wings. To prepare for the assignment, Clarence watches a few scenes from George’s life which shows him all he needs to know about the selfless acts George has done for the people of Bedford.  Here is where the lightbulb went off for me. 


Our CEO, Jeff Bloomfield, and I were having a conversation last week about how so many sales people often fall into the trap of trying to make ourselves and/or our product the “hero” in the story. When in reality, we need to make our customers the hero of the story. 


If you are familiar with the Neuroselling concepts at Braintrust, this will sound familiar. You, as the sage for your customer, have the opportunity every day to make your customer the hero of the story. Are you doing that, or are you making yourself and/or your product the hero? 


Now back to our movie:  To the untrained storytelling eye, It would be so easy to say Clarence is the hero in the story. 

     1. Clarence comes to earth, 

     2. Gives George a solution, 

     3. George makes a decision to change (buying decision),

     4. Clarence gets his wings (reward), 

     5. Everyone lives happily ever after. 


Now think about your last customer conversation… Who is the hero in your story? More often than not, it looks like this: You make a sales call, and you find out your customer’s problem.  You, as the shining knight on a white horse give your customer a solution to said problem, your customer makes a buying decision, you hope they laud you with praise for saving the day for them, you get a commission or a trip to Hawaii (let’s go big), and everyone lives happily ever after.  In this all too familiar sales “story” the characters are in the wrong costumes.  


What if we looked at it this way:

     1. Clarence (you) is the sage, 

     2. The sage brings a solution to solve George’s (your customer) problem, 

     3. George((your customer) makes a buying decision, 

     4. George (your customer) uses your sage solution to solve the problem and becomes the real hero of the story inside the company.

     5. George (your customer) now trusts Clarence (you) even more and goes to you (buys more) time and time again.  


If you do this, George (your customer) wins, Clarence (you) still gets his wings, and yes, you get your commission or trip to Hawaii! 


In the final scene, Clarence gives George a book with a note in it.  The note read the following – “Remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the Wings!” – Love, Clarence. 


The bell rings and George’s daughter says, “the teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” When your customer becomes the hero of your conversation, the bell still rings for you. As professional communicators, this is so important for us to understand. Now – go watch the movie! (And use this lesson to change your next customer conversation!)


Source: Goodhousekeeping.com, November 26, 2019



Coaches Corner – Mastering the Coaching Conversation           


Coaches, do you make your team members the hero of the story? I recently heard a speaker say the following, “we must lower ourselves in order to lift others up.” As you read the blog this week, I want us to challenge ourselves as coaches regarding our conversations to see if we are lifting up ourselves as we coach or are we lifting up others? Are we solving problems so we are the hero, or so that our team members are the hero? The concepts from above apply to our daily conversations with our team members. 


It is a mindset to realize that we are the sage/coach and that we must help identify the roadblocks that stand in the way of our people so that when we can offer or co-create solutions. These solutions are then centered in a place that is driven by helping our players be the hero of the story. This is so difficult to do in practice but it is something we must practice with vigilance if we want to win for the long-haul.       


Your challenge for today is to think about being the coach that guides your team member, so they become the hero of the story.

Source: Capra, Frank, and James Stewart. It’s a Wonderful Life. Los Angeles, CA: Liberty Films, 1946.

Anchors Away – How Your Subconscious Reference Points Drive Your Buying Behavior!

Mastering the Customer Conversation


Hang on everybody. We are heading into the whirlwind of the holiday frenzy over the next 30 days. Sources report that the craziness actually begins in September! Let’s be honest, in the US, we really have two new non-official holidays in this country – “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” 


The holiday season is reported as the largest economic stimulus for many nations around the world as sales increase in almost all retail areas. According to Statista, retail sales generate in excess of three trillion U.S. dollars during the holidays. Process these amazing insights for a moment (staatista.com, 2019). 


  • US consumers expect to spend $794 on average for gifts this season 
  • In 2015, there were over 120M shoppers on Cyber Monday 
  • The average number of holiday gifts expected to be purchased by U.S. consumers is 14.9
  • In 2017, U.S. Christmas tree sales alone were valued at over $2B 


I want to introduce a concept called “anchoring.” You might be asking, what is anchoring? Anchoring is a form of cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions.  We then use that information to compare to our own past experience to determine some form of “value” that helps us make decisions.   


This concept became overwhelmingly clear to me in a recent conversation I had with my wife. We were discussing a shopping experience she had at Nordstrom. As she walks into the kitchen, she says, “Dan, you are not going to believe the deal I got on these new shoes.” I then respond with, “Oh, please share the great news with me.” Yes, there is a little sarcasm built into my response. My wife then responds with, “These shoes were originally marked at over $100, but that price was crossed off, and I got them for less than $50!” It hits me like an anchor dragging you down to the bottom of the ocean. This conversation that we have had over the past 30 years is really just the anchoring effect in all its glory! 


Think about it. My wife is justifying her buying decision by anchoring the value of the purchase on the original price. This type of phenomenon happens to all of us every day. In fact retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are banking on it! So, here is what I want you to do. When you hit the malls or the computer over the next 30 plus days, and you are about to add something to your shopping cart or online basket, think about the anchor that is set, which has just influenced your buying decision. At that point, just smile!         


As we think about the holidays, isn’t there this fantastic juxtaposition of anxiety and joy as we ponder what was in 2019 and what we plan for in 2020. In business, we are continually thinking about closing the year strong and getting off to a fast start in 2020. Personally, we are processing what has been over the past year with the excitement of what will come in the new year. 


Throughout the past year, we have all made decisions based on anchor points. Guess what, so have your customers. Here is an essential question for you in the customer conversation, “do you know your customer’s anchor points and can you quantify them?” Why are these so important? As we all know, our customers have made many decisions long before we ever arrived. Do you realize that when you are asking them to change, you are actually telling them that what they were doing before is wrong? You are basically ignoring their anchors. This sets up a natural barrier to change and slows down the decision-making and buying process. 


On my shopping list for you, I want you to think about three simple questions when it comes to anchor points. 


  1. What are the influences or anchors that drove your customer’s prior buying decisions?
  2. How long has it been since your customer has made a change in their buying process? 
  3. Can you quantify the anchors from your buyer’s perspective when it comes to the problems you are trying to solve with your product or service?


If you can answer these questions, then you will be on the road to having your customers put your product or solution into their shopping cart. 


Source: Statist.com, April 5, 2019


Coaches Corner – Mastering the Coaching Conversation


Coaches, do you understand the anchor points that your team members carry with them on a day to day basis? As you head into your next employee conversation, I challenge you to think about the last conversation you had and/or the previous formal documentation you made post an employee conversation. At Braintrust, we often refer to these anchors that your employees carry as the “junk in the brain trunk” or the “crap in the backpack.” I fully appreciate that your employees don’t usually walk into your office with their backpack on (some of your millennials might) but metaphorically they are carrying it. The pack can keep getting heavier with a whole host of historical anchors that have been filed and stored away by your team member and long forgotten by you. 


After you reflect on the last conversation, take the time to actually review your notes, and see how many items in the feedback you provided were actually focused on facilitating learning and growth for your employees. There is a powerful antidote when your coaching comes from a position of facilitated learning. It actually lightens the load in the backpack and changes anchor points for your team members. 


Your challenge for today is to think about the anchors that you have helped to set for your employees, deliver coaching from a learning perspective, and watch the “junk in the brain trunk” actually change. 

You’ve Got Problems? – Well, I’ve Got Watches!

Mastering the Customer Conversation

If you have been to New York City at any point in your life, you can probably close your eyes and visualize the food and merchandising street vendors as you walk through the streets and maneuver around the traffic, beeping horns, smoke coming up from the streets, and the constant scaffolding that you walk under as buildings are under continuous restoration. The natural energy and buzz of NYC make it one of the best cities in the world!  With that as my mental backdrop, I did a bit of research on the history of street vendors in NYC.  


I was surprised to learn that all the way back in 1609, the earliest known street foods were actually oysters and clams when Henry Hudson discovered one of the world’s most impressive harbors that had over 220,000 acres of oyster beds on the harbor floor, totaling almost half the world’s entire oyster population (Gannon, 2017). Isn’t that crazy?! Not sure I would be up for oysters in the streets of NYC. I’ll stick with a great hot dog.


Ever since then, people have been making a living selling on the streets of NYC through both good and bad times. Just like every business, the street vending business goes through cycles and changes but still must find a way to solve the objectives and problems of their customers to maximize their results. Today, there are over 12,000 street vendors in NYC and over 800 licenses for general merchandising with thousands on a waitlist. 


What in the world does this have to do with you as a salesperson, you ask?  A few years ago, my family and I traveled to New York City during the Christmas season to see a Broadway show and shop in the city. As I was walking down the crowded streets, I observed the street vendors selling items from their street-side booths. These booths were filled with multiple products, wide-ranging price points, and varying levels of quality. One table I clearly remember was filled with watches, jewelry, hats, and scarfs. I remember being interested in picking up an inexpensive sports watch as I walked up to the booth. I had already made up my mind that I was going to buy a watch to wear around the city before even approaching the vendor. My problem was that I had left my watch back in Cincinnati, and I just needed an inexpensive option to get me through the weekend. As I walked up to the booth, it was at that point where everything went wrong. 


Not only did the street vendor NOT attempt to make a connection with me, but he clearly didn’t try to understand my problem. He wanted to do what many of us do – you see someone that is even remotely interested in your product and service, and you rush to showing as many “watches” as possible. He immediately shifted an interested buyer to a defensive buyer, and I walked away. In the blink of an eye, his sale was gone. At that point, he actually put me into a fight or flight mindset, and I chose the flight option. I had a problem and a need, and he had a product. This should have been simple, right? 

Now you may be saying; I would never do that as a sales professional. Research from the BrevetGroup reports that only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs and problems. The street vendor saw the interaction and conversation through his eyes and not mine. He lost the focus on solving my problem and instead, simply tried to sell me a product, any product he had, in fact. 


If you don’t understand and document your customers’ challenges and problems ahead of your interaction, you will statistically do no better than the street vendor. You have to resist the urge to see a prospect as a potential “transaction” whereby you open your trenchcoat and say “I see you have two wrists…well, I’ve got watches!”  


It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a life insurance policy, a piece of manufacturing equipment, a pharmaceutical product or a multi-million-dollar apartment in NYC, you must understand the problems your customers face in order to be a trusted advisor to them. So, here are a couple of practical tips. 


  1. Do your homework and document your customers’ problems ahead of your call, this will show them that you care about what they care about. 
  2. Do not quickly move from surface-level rapport building to your product. You must build a genuine connection, understand your buyer’s problems to allow your product or service to be the hero of the story.
  3. Ask the right questions to not only uncover the customer’s problem but show empathy towards the impact that problem may be having on them.  
  4. Do not forget to link your product value (features and benefits) back to the customers’ objectives and problems. If you do this right, it will increase the urgency to change because you are focused on them, not you. 


Lastly, it is critically important to remember that problems evoke emotions and products evoke judgment. When you realize that you are reducing emotions in your customers by solving their problems, you will win more opportunities. International best-selling author and Pastor Rick Warren illustrates it best in his #1 New York Times bestseller; The Purpose Driven Life: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is thinking more of others.” My other favorite is, “It’s not about you.”






Warren, R., 2002. The Purpose Driven Life. Michigan: Zondervan.



Coaches Corner – Mastering the Coaching Conversation 


Coaches, do you understand the problems that your team members face when they come to see you? Do you coach with their problems in mind or yours? As my business partner, Jeff Bloomfield’s Papaw, taught him many years ago, “problem solvers rule the world.” However, it is not about rushing to a quick solution so that you can get your team members out of your office and back to work. At times, there is an easy solution and no doubt that context matters. Our challenge as coaches is to understand each situation. It is truly about understanding the problem, asking insightful, and provocative questions to help your team members learn new ways to solve their problems. If you can do this in an empathic way, then your team members will grow in their trust in you as their leader-coach. 


In this episode of the coaches’ corner, I want you to think about having a stopwatch in your head. The next time one of your team members brings you a problem, pretend that you are starting the stopwatch. See how long it takes you to process your team members’ comments and move to a solution. What I would recommend is that you slow down the time, really listen to the problem, and remember that our job is not to fix everything. Great coaches ask great questions. Enough questions, in fact, until their team members can arrive at a potential solution on their own. Our job is to help our team members learn. If you solve problems from a learning perspective rather than a fixing perspective, the individual will have a much better shot at sustained change. You just have to remember that it’s not about you having the “answer”, it’s about them coming up with the right “solution”.  When you don’t care who gets credit, ironically, they will inevitably give the credit to you, their favorite coach.

Objectives – The 6:00 AM Question!

Mastering the Customer Conversation


Have you ever asked yourself a simple question? What does my customer think about every day at 6:00 AM when they are getting ready for or driving to work?


How many of us have those sleepless nights where we keep running over all the things we have to do in the coming days, weeks, and months ahead? It feels as if we are on a hamster wheel, and it won’t stop. The night feels long, and the stress is real. At some point, we finally fall asleep. If you’re like me, you might wake up in the middle of the night, walk down to your home office and make a list on the whiteboard. Yes, I actually do that! Once I make a list, I find that I fall asleep faster. A good friend of mine keeps a scratch pad and a pen on the nightstand next to his bed in case he can’t sleep or if he wakes up with a great idea. I should remind him that he can record a voice memo on his Apple Watch and then go back to sleep.


A simple life tip for all of us that deal with stress is… we need rest! After a night of sleep, isn’t it amazing how the world seems clearer and calmer in the morning BEFORE we are flooded with communication from all angles? Now ask yourself this question, wouldn’t you love to have the list of the things that keeps your buyers awake at night? Is it revenue, satisfied clients, service innovation, turnover, referrals, company politics?


If you really want to connect with your customers, then you must put yourself in their shoes and think about their list. NOT YOURS! Here is the good news; in most cases, you already have the list. You just haven’t taken the time to think about it, document it and then activate that knowledge early in your customer conversations (after building trust via an authentic connection). You talk to prospects every day. If you take the time to step back and think about your buyers’ world and not yours, you can quickly come up with a “top 5” set of objectives and challenges that are at the forefront of your customers’ minds. Until you understand these objectives and challenges, how can you apply your product or service in the most meaningful way? Once you change your perspective, you begin to change the way you communicate.


Here are 5 practical approaches to building an objective centered relationship.


  1. Make a list of the top five (no more) objectives of your buyer
  2. Make a list of the top five (no more) challenges of your buyer
  3. Force rank those objectives and challenges from 1-5
  4. Highlight the objectives/challenges that you can uniquely solve
  5. After you build trust, discuss those objectives/challenges from a knowledge position supported with provocative and insightful questions


Once you do this work and can apply this early in the conversation, the speed of which your buyers will make a decision will increase. You never know, you may actually help someone sleep better at night because their list just got shorter.


Coaches Corner – Mastering the Coaching Conversation


Coaches, do you understand the objectives and challenges for each of your team members? Do you coach with their objectives and challenges in mind or yours? Here is a secret in coaching, help your players achieve their objectives, and yours will also be fulfilled. It is no surprise that each of our team members carries their own list of things that keep them awake at night. We have to take the time to tap into that list.  Over the next 30 days, I would like you to complete an exercise that might actually surprise you.


At the end of October, I want you to go back to your calendar and calculate how many hours you spent in 1:1 conversation with your team members. I’m talking about dedicated conversations with quality time. After you do this exercise, it may shock you how little time you actually spend with your team. If you’re not spending time, then you are making it difficult for yourself. However if you are spending quality people/relational time vs. task/transactional time then good for you, keep it up!


By making a simple change in the fourth quarter to quality time, it just may help you put your team members’ objectives/challenges at the forefront of your relationships as we close out 2019 and head into 2020.