"86% of people think their listening skills are above average."
I know it's first thing on a Monday, but hopefully your math radar just went off.
Kudos to listening guru Oscar Trimboli for that stat which reveals a significant lack of self-awareness and understanding of so many folks - including me!
Amazing things will happen when you "mute yourself," especially when talking to customers and prospects.
Start conversations with a quiet mind.
Don't rush to solve or sell.
Go where THEY want the conversation to go.
Don't judge or defend.
Generally speaking, just...
Here's a link to Oscar Trimboli's wonderful podcast: https://oscartrimboli.libsyn.com/the-four-villains-of-listening
Hard to believe that it's been nearly 2 years since I got a big taste of how generous the customer success world is.
After I did two podcast interviews with Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach of Gain Grow Retain (which was in and of itself a somewhat generous act since I was a nobody in CS at the time), someone I did not know, Diana De Jesus, wrote two articles summarizing my interview. Here's one.
And I liked her summaries better than my interviews!
She clearly and concisely highlighted points that were relevant to HER and HER AUDIENCE - something I wasn't able to do at the time.
Fast forward to last evening, when I finally had the privilege to speak live with Diana, 1:1. And she blew me away again with her insights.
So thank you, Diana, for providing significant emotional tailwind to my customer journey. Looking forward to our next chat for sure.
And give her a follow on LinkedIn or at her web site.
Remember how much you learned and gained from the "margins" of a F2F customer or prospect meeting?
You know, the few minutes before the formal agenda begins where everyone's filing in and chatting? And the last several as folks are reflecting on what was covered?
Meeting margins are where two important things grow: customer relationships and insights.
But with virtual meetings, the margins disappear right? You jump on and jump off.
Not so, according to a senior #customersuccess manager in one of my coaching sessions.
She uses several of my disruptive questions (see cheat sheet in comments) to effectively recreate the margins in the body of her virtual meetings.
These questions effectively open the conversational aperture far beyond the standard agenda. The customers talk about what's happening in their BUSINESS. And how those priorities and challenges relate to the customer's desired outcomes.
I get it - F2F meetings create intimacy with customers and prospects. But you can get similar insights and relationship benefits by asking better questions during virtual meetings too.
This is inspired by a really interesting observation by a customer success manager yesterday during our weekly team check in call.
His said he looks forward to these meetings because it is a welcome departure from his regular routine. He appreciates the opportunity to take a step back once a week “to think and reflect a bit.”
To think about
- how things are going.
- how we engage in customer conversations.
- what we can do differently to reach desired outcomes.
It reminded me of the question coaches often ask business owners and entrepreneurs, “Are you working in your business or on your business?“
In it = The regular routine, the daily grind.
On it = Taking a step back to be curious and reflect.
So I’ll end this post where it started: “Are you working in your job or on it?”
Have a great Friday and to my US friends, hope you enjoy the long holiday weekend.
"As a customer success professional, I work accounts in tandem with #sales. Some of them panic when I ask these (bold, disruptive, open-ended) discovery questions, even if the answers I get are great. Any advice for working with nervous sales folk?"
That is an actual question from my webinar this week with Involve.ai - and I've heard it before. Here's my answer:
But consider the facts...
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to all who joined Shashi Bellamkonda and me on yesterday's "What's Left Unsaid" webinar, hosted by Involve.ai. I talk about 16 disruptive customer discovery questions and how they get prospects and customers to really open up.
The attendees raised some very interesting questions, including how to deal with sales folks who push back on customer success professionals who are asking bold, disruptive customer questions.
As Snoop says in a recent Corona beer commercial, "the best plan is no plan."
Same applies to "unstructured play" for kids.
Pull back on the organized activities. Let them just run around and mess stuff up.
Let 'em fall and skin their knees. Let them get lost and find their way out. They'll learn more and be more resourceful and creative.
The same logic works for convos with prospects and customers.
Take away the agenda, the choreography, the guardrails. Don't insist on being in the driver's seat all the time.
Why? What happens when you get them to open up about what's important to THEM?
I'll tell you: You learn about their business priorities, drivers. Their hopes and fears. So your relationship can be stronger.
And you'll differentiate yourself as not just a typical sales rep or CSM.
Fascinating anecdote to share from my convo with a customer success team yesterday.
One of the CSM's scheduled an in-person meeting with a customer. But a fire alarm caused an evacuation of the building, so the CSM changed the meeting to lunch at a nearby restaurant.
And guess what: Because there was no PPT (the CSM felt it wouldn't be appropriate to open her laptop at the table), the conversation became more of a...well, an actual conversation.
Much of the typical vendor/customer formality and rigidity fell away in favor of an "unscripted" (her word), open-ended and very insightful exchange.
Try ditching PPT once in a while. As one of the other team members said yesterday, "Why am I spending 3 hours on a PPT for a 45 minute call?"
Each of the customer discovery questions I teach has a "hook" and a "twist," designed to disarm customers and get them to open up. Typically they will talk at least 80% of the time, so you'll have lots of opportunity to listen and learn.
Here are 3 examples:
1. If a COMPETITOR (hook) CONTACTED YOU TOMORROW (twist), would you ignore them, or want to learn more?
Hook the customer by mentioning "competitor," which most other vendors wouldn't dare ask about. They fear it's a Pandora's Box, when in reality, our customers are exposed to our competitors every week if not every day! The twist is posing the hypothetical scenario in which that the customer hears from a competitor tomorrow (which also gives the hypothetical a sense of urgency).
2. What's the one thing that absolutely has to be OFF (TWIST) your WHITEBOARD (hook) in the next 90 days?
The whiteboard is a hook. Everyone either has one or knows what it refers to. The twist is to ask what needs to be *off* their whiteboard. Two other ingredients make this question disruptive: Asking about *one thing* helps the customer prioritize, as there is often one challenge or priority that rises above the others in importance. And *next 90 days* gives the question a relatively near-term focus. You can also use "next 12 months."
3. What’s one thing that SURPRISED YOU (twist) since you signed the CONTRACT (hook)?
Signing the contract is the hook. It's a great reference point, not only because it reminds the customer of what they signed up to receive, but also because it represents a specific point in time. The twist is asking what *surprised* them. This helps you uncover the delta between their original expectations and the reality they are experiencing. Interesting fact: In the course of my nearly 2,600 customer discovery conversations, customers mention positive surprises a bit more than half the time.
A scrollable, 5-minute tale about my trip into the fantastically vibrant and welcoming customer success community