In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, there is a chapter on Capturing Mindshare, a process you could think of as how you might shape the lens through which your clients view their world, their business, and their decisions. The framework provides a way to start a conversation about change, changing what they are doing, and changing their partner, as the book is about competitive displacements (i.e., eating their lunch). Here are five stories that shape the lens through which your client views their world.
The Story of Where We Are Now
One of the greatest frustrations you might suffer from in sales is a client who can’t or won’t see what you see. You recognize the factors that should be causing your dream client to see and do things differently, but they don’t yet understand what is very clear to you. One of the ways to help your clients see things differently is by providing them with a story of where we are now. To tell this story, you are going to need trends, proof, implications, and a recommendation based on your views and values.
“Every day in the United States, roughly 11,000 baby boomers retire. That is is 4,000,000 people retiring each year or 333,000 a month. The US Economy creates about 150,000 jobs per month now. Each month, as the largest generation of Americans retires, the gap between open positions and available workers grows larger, as the generations that followed the Baby Boomers are smaller.”
This is a story about where we are now. It explains why something is occurring now. It also made up of facts that can be proven and verified. Stories like these help your dream client to see something that was hidden to them.
The Story of Impending Implications
The outcome of a story about where we are is to help your prospective client explore change, a concept you will find in The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales. The where we are story may not be adequate to the challenge of compelling change. What compels change are the consequences of the decisions your client makes—or doesn’t make.
“What are the implications of Baby Boomers retiring in large numbers? There are too few people available to backfill their jobs. There is a growing skills gap, as the available employees lack the time and experience in specific roles. The generations behind the Baby Boomers aren’t interested in the positions available. All of these mean you are going to be challenged by finding the people you need to staff your business.”
Avoiding the potential negative consequences and obtaining positive consequences is what drives decisions. People generally try to avoid pain and seek pleasure. If there are no negative consequences for maintaining the status quo, people don’t tend to change.
The Story of Better Future Results
You need a theory about how what your dream client needs to do to create a better future. Your clients don’t want to buy your product for service; they want to buy the better outcomes they want or need. You need a story about better future results, a vision about where your dream client needs to go.
“In the future, it is essential that you both acquire the talent you need to compete and grow your business, as well as building the capabilities of the people you hire when they lack the experience or training. With a strategy that balances a combination of buying and developing talent, you have a competitive advantage and are positioned to continue growing.”
Embedded here is a theory about what is necessary to succeed in the not-to-distant future. The story is focused on strategic outcomes, what decision-makers are interested in buying, and it says nothing about a product or service or the salesperson’s company, these things not being necessary to the outcome of the story.
The Story of How to Make Change
It’s almost certain you know how to tell these stories. These are the stories you tell about what your dream client needs to do to achieve a better future state your shared with them. Naturally, these stories speak to the outcomes produced by your product, service, or solution.
“The two changes necessary to build a balanced program require changes to your employee value proposition to allow you to attract and retain passive candidates and a training and development program for job titles that will enable you to build talent that can grow into greater responsibility.”
How do you know you are consultative? If the advice in the preceding paragraph is accurate, if it is the right answer even if they chose your competitor, you are consultative. You don’t find any reference to the company or product because the advice is the product (When you understand the implication of this sentence, you will be a better salesperson. You will also find your dream clients prefer you over your competitors).
The Story of What’s Next
There is one more story you need to tell. You need to share with your client what comes next, what happens after the better future state. Retaining and growing your clients comes from the constant and continuous creation of new value.
Now that you are acquiring the talent you need and building the rest, your focus needs to shift to retaining key employees and developing the next generation of leaders in every function.
With this, you pivot back to the story of “where we are now,” and you begin the process again. Retention and growth come from the stories about what’s next, and it’s how you go from quarter to quarter, always helping your clients to produce an upward spiral of better results.