Updated: Dec 11, 2020
By definition, training isn't learning. Attend any tech company's National Sales Meeting and you'll see lots of training and dare I say it, very little actual learning. This is best evidenced by what's happening in the field following such events but maybe that part is better discussed over a refreshing beverage.......
Training is an event that does not guarantee that learning happened.
Learning happens with listening, demonstrating, the ability to ask hard questions and challenge the thinking, and continues with elements of reinforcement.
Perpetual learners are better Sales people and they also create better client experiences.
Your client-facing teams, as trusted advisors need to be wildly curious far beyond the Sales cycle about what's on the client's mind, what keeps them awake at night, and pro-actively helping them manage what's coming down the road.
Building an in-demand product, a book of business, an exceptional client experience, or anything meant to create financial growth, means starting with infinite curiosity.
...........and that doesn't mean just randomly asking clients a million questions for which you should already have the answers.
When it comes to client experiences from Sales through Support, perhaps it's time to take Mr. Jobs advice and think different.
HUMAN BRAINS > AI
I recently listened to Brene Brown's podcast with David Eagleman in which they discussed Livewired: The Inside Story of the Ever-Changing Brain. 'Mind bending' and 'dazzling insights' are some of the comments you'll read in the description but beyond the rave reviews, the way he describes neuroscience is very consumable and interesting for those of us lesser mortals. He describes why it's important to do things like:
- Purposefully find a new way to drive a route, even if it's a little longer. Better yet, be open to getting lost.
- Try brushing my teeth with the opposite hand I usually use and to keep doing it until it feels entirely natural. #wecandohardthings
- Switch up games and book genres. Like the time I tried a crossword puzzle and kept going until I solved a small one. Then I attacked the Sunday Times puzzle.
Why would I do that to myself? Because our brains are constantly changing, rewiring and adapting to the new world they're in. Every new face, every new conversation, everything 'new' to our brain is shaping it to process information in a new way and rewires our bodies to respond in kind. So I do it because it's like yoga for my mind. Eagleman talks about how we often try to conflate human brains with machines we're making (I see you, AI) but how AI and a human brain aren't in the same ballpark, or universe.
I once worked with a CSM team with an on-boarding process that took about 90 minutes of time on the phone to fill in a spreadsheet of information with the client. They did this because the CSM team lacked exposure to the client until after Sales and Deployment and by nature, those transitions processes were exceptionally poor. By the time Go Live happened, nobody was the head goat wrangler and nobody was maintaining the buying Executive relationship. In this situation, being infinitely curious could have led to keeping the Buying Executive engaged in the value conversation but even more so, making CSM 'onboarding' a non-event. Done well, you can think of CSM as a value-added accoutrements on the client's journey.
Creating smooth transitions and an exceptional experience requires asking the right questions internally and creating curiosity around the client journey. Perhaps most importantly, understanding that the client is the Buyer, The Stakeholder, and the User and they each have unique perspectives. If you can't understand the persona perspectives as part of the overall client organization, you'll have a really hard time getting embedded to understand what do you need to do to move from being reactive to being proactive.
BEING A STUDENT OF YOUR CRAFT
If your Land and Expand strategies aren't yielding the growth and retention results you want, it's probably time to be different. Maybe it's time to just be curious and learn to ask the right questions.
In another great podcast hosted by Mark Evans, Luc Bohunicky said it best: "If you think you know everything, it puts you at a disadvantage". He was speaking about specifically about entrepreneurship and building a book of business but the principle clearly also applies to anyone building client relationships and even more so, an exceptional Client Experience. Why? Because you must do things that feel counter-intuitive like learn how to ask really great questions when you're really working to act as a Trusted Advisor to a client.
But it's not just asking questions for the sake of asking questions. Asking probing questions with empathy is exactly what the best consultants do but even more so, they're listening because there's always more to discover than just the answer to the question. Asking probing/clarifying questions is the best thing to demonstrate active listening so learn to be an active listener knowing it can feel awkward to do that when you're introduced as the SME or Trusted Advisory.
I've said it before: The job of a trusted advisor is to consistently elevate the order of the client complaint. It's to move the client on from talking about issues lists and to start talking about value and strategy. Find new ways to offer proactive strategic value. If the client has a problem you or your platform can't solve, introduce someone who can solve it for them. When it comes to the client's solutions, be agnostic. Your platform is one piece of the client's digital workplace. Ultimately, shift conversation away from that which is easy to instead what is valuable.
A great place to start is to turn your CS and Account Management teams into Trusted Advisors who make the connections and become your growth generators by thinking differently (Thanks, Steve Jobs). It's likely going to feel very strange to introduce something you don't sell to solve a problem for the client and for a while, it's going to feel plain old wrong to introduce another partner who will sell something when your goal is to sell.
Become infinitely curious. Become a student of the client, focus on their needs, and shift your goal into agnostic platform problem-solving. The data from Gartner, early Bain and McKinsey all indicate that you'll sell MORE.
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