Tuesday’s post about constructive criticism (Constructive Criticism Gone Awry (As a Receiver)), especially my “unappreciative” reception, made me think about business and sales. In many ways, giving and receiving constructive criticism is similar to selling.
  • The lack of understanding (and lack of trying to understand) lost me as a receiver.The man offering the criticism came in with a solution based off a few brief observations. He did not realize that the gym is a very important place for me – my “safe haven”. As such, speaking at the gym, to me, is unwanted.
  • The validity of the man’s constructive criticism was derailed early from a misunderstood position. Again, without understanding what was happening, the man stated I was being rude by not facing another man – the chiropractor. He did not observe how I was pointing and craning my neck in various positions while talking to a knownchiropractor. How quickly, then, I dismissed his observation.
  • The lack of empathy creates friction and defensiveness. I want to hammer home this point – for successful criticism, product, or service [sale], empathy is imperative. Being a 3rd party observer, the perspective can be objective. However, coming in with a harsh hypothesis can create unwarranted tension – hypotheses such as being rude, the business prospect’s process is broken, etc. Influence without empathy falls on deaf ears.

As a receiver of constructive criticism and a prospect for many products and services, I get it. I want to be the best version of myself. For my company, I want us to excel. That means I am open for feedback and useful products or services. Approach tactfully and with empathy.

In sales, you don’t always get the inbound lead who tells you exactly what their problem is. Even more uncommon is when your prospect just tells you how your solution can solve for said problem. Especially when prospecting, it matters to help a lead think about a problem you solve. In this way, menu options are a great way to do this.
Menu options are the value levers or benefits your product/ service can enable for prospects. A menu can uncover what a prospect truly cares about while tying directly to your product or service.
Think, first, of three menu options. Tie each with a story/ path so you can demonstrate how your product or service meets each option.
The menu options for a prospect considering Airbnb may include:
  • Experience an authentic experience in thousands of cities. (Experience value.)
  • Explore a new destination by living with locals. (Experience and social values.)
  • Save on lodging with hundreds of unique options. (Economic value.)

For early-stage companies with few customers, hypothesize what those value levers are. Otherwise, pull from existing customers what value they get from your product or service. Then align a prospect with the persona of an existing customer, and offer a similar menu option set.

Losing a deal sucks. I won’t paint a prettier picture or use more eloquent words. It just sucks. You’ll lose deals as a sales guy. You may lose a lot of deals over the years. However, there are some opportunities that sting more than others.
This happened to me recently when a prospect decided not to move forward with a pilot. The prospect cited an infrastructure and a missing feature issue. The infrastructure was actually the nail in the coffin, and was an internal issue. Not much can be done. However, I was also thinking about the feature issue. Though this wasn’t the real concern, it made me think because we’re selling a new product and building a nascent category. In this way, we can get compared to existing solutions that are similar-ish, but actually very different.
When it comes to buying, prospects want comparisons. Comparisons help understand solutions and offerings. Think about how often people say, “it’s the Uber of X” or “it’s the Facebook for Y”. They can be completely different, but people love comparisons to understand. Problem is when it’s a very new product/ category with limited comparables.
Given we’re all about relationships and we help sales leaders (and their teams), the natural comparison is the CRM. Indeed, we solve many issues of CRM. But what we do is very different in capturing the holistic relationship between the COMPANY and its PROSPECTS and CUSTOMERS.
Because of comparisons, it can be that much more important (beneficial) to get customers to the “wow” moment. In our case, it’s seeing your own data.
In my lost opportunity’s case, the missing feature actually exists in the CRM (again, our comparison point) because of the poor usability and access to the right data. We solve those problems. So in this way, we don’t actually need that feature. However, we are being anchored to preconceived pain points of our comparison point.
In sales, then, it’s vital to showcase why specific features are not needed due to your unique differentiators. It’s important to get to the “wow” moment as soon as possible. It’s vital to realize that you are being compared to existing solutions that may not be specifically competitive. Share the feedback with marketing to help address these issues early on.
Beware of comparisons.