The key to success is handed to you the minute you stop talking to yourself. When you’ve been inside of as many businesses as I have over the last three decades plus, you begin to see commonalities and there is one thing that 100% of the businesses I’ve been inside of have in common, and it’s really dangerous, and that is that they’re talking to themselves. Here’s what I e by that; you’re stuck in an office in an office complex, surrounded by a parking lot with a lot of cars, and you go into your office and you see your colleagues every day, you see your boss, or maybe you are the boss and you see your employees every day. Maybe you’ve just come back from a conference, you think you’ve done great, and that’s great, and then you talk about how great everything was, and how great you are, and how terrific you’re doing, but your sales are still not great. So, maybe you’re not doing so well. But, you have these ideas about who you are, “we’re just the best at service, we’re the market leader, we do it this particularly peculiarly different way that everybody loves” but your sales are still bad or could be so much better, or maybe they’re flat, but you’re just not performing.
Here’s the deal; talking to yourself happens when all you talk to are your colleagues and your offices mates about your business, and you don’t speak with your customers. Now, going to one trade show or conference is not going to do it, because there you can have all the excuses in the world and feel really good about yourself, and “gosh, this brochure was really popular” and “this backdrop looked really terrific” That’s great, you can feel really great in your branded shirt, you can feel terrific, but that’s not speaking with your customers. Here’s what we do to kind of break out of that talking to yourself that businesses get into.
We make a list of all of your customers, we find maybe 10 that we want to talk to, then we make another list of all of those prospects that didn’t close and we take maybe 10 of those, and then we make a list of the customers that got away, the ones that fired you, and hopefully there’s not 10 of those, but if there are we take 10 of those. Then, we make a list of questions, and the questions are things we would like to hear from the customers, and then we interview them, this is very important, and very special about how we do this. Our client introduces us to the customer via email, and then we make the appointment directly with the client or prospect, or the one that got away, and we assure them that the interview is completely confidential. They can tell us anything they want, they should think about us as their criminal attorney, they should leave nothing on the table. When it’s anonymous— It’s confidential, right? so when we present the data to our client about this conversation it is anonymous. So, when the client or the prospect, or the one that got away is assured that what they say will not be identified with them, they become very honest.
Now, these interviews can be extraordinarily insightful. We have found new revenue channels, we have found real difficult problem areas for our clients that we can then help them solve, and they can work on solving themselves. We’ve also discovered new competitor that our clients hadn’t even considered, and sometimes there are new technologies. The other thing that we’ve discovered is inflection points, what was the need that they had, and sometimes that’s a big surprise for our clients. But, let’s get back to those new revenue channels. If you have a good person interviewing they’re going to probe, and they’re going to ask questions to the prospects like “That sounds like a pretty big problem, would you be willing to pay to have someone help you solve it?” You know, I can’t tell you how many times the answer is yes, then we can go back to our client and say “add this service and people will buy it, they’ll love you for it, they’ll be so relieved”
So, that’s how you stop talking to yourself, you break the cycle. Try to find somebody to do the interviews for you, preferably someone how is a good professional interviewer. Who might that be? I’ll tell you who that is; business reporters, journalist. One of the things for me is that I was trained as a journalist and hey, that really helps the ability to probe and ask questions that get those really golden nugget answers for our clients. So, stop talking to yourself, find someone to help do your interviews, do them confidentially, and reap the rewards.
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