Sales Lesson #1: Don’t “Get” Your Customers to Do Anything!

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Every so often, an article with a title like How to Get Any Customer to Take Action Immediately, burbles into my newsfeed. There are infinite variants. No matter what you want your customers and prospects to do, you can count on finding a putative method for making it happen. But for all the how-to’s devoted to getting customers to do things, it’s easy to forget that the goal, of course, is helping them succeed, and not twisting their arms – literally or figuratively.

If you ask top producing sales reps – those who truly serve customers – how they get their customers to buy, they’d probably be confused by the question. Instead, they’d reveal that they don’t get their customers to do anything. What produces their excellent results is their ability to guide their customers, and ultimately help them achieve good outcomes. Guiding versus Getting: these are fundamentally different approaches, with little in common. Guiding assumes prospects can be trusted, Getting assumes they cannot. Guiding sees prospects as partners, Getting sees them as objects. Guiding views prospects as capable decision makers, Getting views them as inept. Guiding relies on inquiry and collaboration, Getting relies on telling and insistence. In countless interviews I’ve held with successful sales professionals, I’ve learned they embrace Guiding in every customer interaction, and eschew Getting.

“How to get your prospect to [fill in the blank]!” What regularly emerges are manipulative high-pressure sales tactics that break customer rapport and erode trust. Instead of improving sales outcomes and buying experiences, the resulting behaviors and activities undermine them.

The top producers I’ve worked with have figured out a better way, and honed their skills accordingly. They begin with a natural curiosity, and connect it to a sincere desire to understand customer problems, limitations, issues, concerns, performance gaps, and strategic challenges. They uncover the intensity of motivation to change the situation, and learn the mechanisms their customers have developed for investing in solutions. And if customers lack the mechanisms, top producers guide them to create a path forward. From there, they harness the power of the customer’s will to change. The energy might be low, or altogether absent, which is why reps, often goaded by their managers, turn to Getting. My question to them: how’s that working for you? . . .

The best salespeople know that attempting to force customer action can become a distraction. It can also backfire. As one rep, Denise, explained it to me, “I don’t push the monthly specials the way management wants me to. They don’t work, and it’s not the way my customers buy . . . When I talk on the phone, there’s no sales urgency to my voice.” The year I interviewed her, she was her company’s top producer out of over 50 reps. Though her immediate boss wasn’t clear about the reasons for her success, her statement provides much of the answer: Denise guides her customers. She doesn’t get them to do anything.

The post Sales Lesson #1: Don’t “Get” Your Customers to Do Anything! appeared first on Contrary Domino.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this sage advice, Andrew. These mindsets and tactics of “getting customers to do stuff” are killing trust in business. Nobody wants to be manipulated. And customers aren’t as unassuming, or hoodwink-able as many business people assume. In fact, their comprehension of what’s being done (transparency to motives) is much higher than most assume.

    The top-producing sales reps you mention — those who truly serve customers — are indeed the standard for business growth. Their natural curiosity and research of customers’ motivations for use in guiding every customer interaction with full respect for the customer’s innate wisdom and freedom of choice — rather than “getting customers to do what’s needed to achieve company goals” — is the reason why they’re the most successful. The biggest successes are built on relationship, respect and trust.

    We need more call-outs like this to drown-out the newsfeed claiming recipes for getting customers to do anything. Those hoodwinks might be successful to a degree, because people like to get a deal. But overall, people like to be respected, and hoodwink sales reps eventually lose long-term to those who truly serve customers.

  2. Hi Lynn: thanks for taking the time to read my article and for your comment. There’s great opportunity to convert sales cultures into guiding customers rather than getting them to do things. The semantics matter. ‘Getting’ strikes me as old school, and it jumps out whenever I see or hear it. I think among the top reasons managers lapse into ‘getting’ are a) that’s what they know how to do, and b) they feel high pressure to meet revenue targets, and that pressure transfers directly onto reps and from there, into customer interactions. It may seem counter-intuitive, but many of the top producers I’ve worked with have shared that they achieve better results when stress is reduced or absent.

  3. I agree, Andy. Old-school thinking is problematic. “Guiding customers per their objectives” fits today’s mindset among customers, whereas “Getting customers to meet our objectives” rankles today’s customers.

    It also seems odd to assume a company “has” certain customers. That’s true to an extent, in terms of the duration of a contract with a customer. More modern is the phrasing “serve” customers. (e.g. we have 100 customers vs. we serve 100 customers) This respects customers’ freedom of choice and shifts internal thinking from complacency and entitlement to teachable and action-oriented.

    By using more modern phrasing, mindsets are shifted powerfully. These shifts can make a huge difference in competitive advantage, as described in the Air New Zealand example in my latest blog (https://clearaction.com/customer-engagement-enterprise-imperative/).

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