The road less travelled
Author: Nikki Myles
In spring, my husband and I moved 450 miles to be nearer to our kids. So, at the moment, every time we step out of the house we are quite literally on a road less travelled…for us at least.
While there was a compelling reason to move, we could easily have stayed where we were. It was comfortable. We always knew how to get to where we wanted to go. We were content, and we had a rhythm that worked for us. By doing the same things all the time, we got the same results, and that was fine.
There was simply no good reason to get out of our comfort zone. Could we be missing new opportunities, new experiences and new friendships? Maybe. But – while we chatted about this often – the thing about a comfort zone is that, well, it’s comfortable. Moving out of a rhythm that works isn’t easy, because you can never be sure what you’re replacing it with.
And we all know how hard habits are to break when there is no compelling reason to change. You can always convince yourself that everything is good as it is. Don’t rock the boat. Play it safe. Don’t expect the grass to be greener on the other side.
“It is the path back home. If you choose, you can take it. It is safe, easy, and comfortable.”
– Wesley Chu, ‘The Lives of Tao’.
The problem with comfort zones
In the world of our customers, we are seeing an increasingly compelling reason to take the road less travelled.
In Daniel H. Pink’s latest book, ‘To sell is Human’, he writes:
“When buyers can know more than sellers, sellers are no longer protectors and purveyors of information. They’re the curators and clarifiers of it – helping to make sense of the blizzard of facts, data, and options.”
Traditionally, as long as your salespeople knew their stuff about your organisation, they could pick the bits they recognised from customer conversations and propose a solution accordingly.
But if, as Pink says, sellers need to help buyers make sense of a “blizzard” of information, this approach is no longer enough. It’s tantamount to staying in your ‘safe zone’ and doing what you’ve always done, and it’s likely to result in diminishing returns. By only picking up and responding to the areas they’re most comfortable with, sellers might be missing out on the kind of understanding and insight that increasingly drives sales.
After all, buyers are doing all that research, fact-finding and thinking for a reason. Why is it important to them? What questions are they trying to answer? If you can’t help them make sense of the avalanche of information they’ve been presented with, you can’t further their understanding and win their trust.
In other words, it’s time for sales to take the road less travelled.
“If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything.”
– Scott Peck, ‘The Road Less Traveled’.
Curiosity closes the deal
Curiosity is a word and a trait that I come back to time and time again. It’s an essential quality in your salespeople because it means they’re keen to help customers answer the questions their increasingly extensive research throws up.
At SalesEASE, we talk about sales explorers. Explorers are curious about the unknown; they take the road less travelled to somewhere new, rather than tread the same old roads.
Our focus is on helping your salespeople become sales explorers who remain confident outside their comfort zones, unfazed by the unknown.
We ignite their curiosity. We nurture salespeople who are open to a world of possibilities and hidden opportunities and of conversations with no fixed path. We give them the skills and confidence to explore ideas as they appear naturally in customer conversation. By being curious – asking questions and genuinely listening to what your customers say – sales will uncover more insight, fill gaps in their understanding and identify other avenues for exploration.
“Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice, and a profound tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there.”
– Scott Peck, ‘The Road Less Traveled’.
Becoming a trusted advisor
All this is relevant because salespeople now have to become guides, exploring far and wide to find the real nub of the problem a buyer is trying to solve. They might even identify a problem the buyer didn’t know they had.
Now, I know that as a salesperson, conversations with customers are fundamentally influenced by your sales target, which is always lurking at the back of your mind. Selling is very personal because the outcome of every conversation directly impacts your ability to pay the bills. But the rewards of following your curiosity and asking those important questions, don’t just impact the current opportunity, it affects future revenue opportunities too.
As Francesca Gino highlights in ‘The Business Case for Curiosity’:
“When we demonstrate curiosity about others by asking questions, people like us more and view us as more competent, and the heightened trust makes our relationships more interesting and intimate. By asking questions, we promote more meaningful connections and more creative outcomes.”
Viewed like that, curiosity in sales situations is the springboard to gaining the status of trusted advisor, and we all know the effect that can have on the bottom line.
The figures don’t lie. In one instance, 82% of customers who did not renew their annual contracts with an insurance company either had an antagonistic or transactional relationship with the provider.
Meanwhile, according to HubSpot, customers who had a transactional relationship with the representatives at one IT VAR gave the company 14% of their available business on average, but the percentage jumped to 47% if they perceived the VAR’s salespeople to be trusted advisors. That’s a 33% difference that can be attributed solely to relationship strength!
Trusted advisors are curious, confident and unafraid of the twists and turns a conversation may take. They’re explorers, and modern sales teams should be made up of them.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’.