Life is a series of doing the things you said you never would do.”– Charley Hackerson
This was Charley Hackerson’s interview opener on Coffee and Closers in Minneapolis. I attended the great local event for the first time to get fresh perspective on sales. I could relate to his opening comments. If you had asked me three years ago if I would be building software, my response would have been “no way am I ever doing THAT!” Famous last words, right?
Many of us find ourselves exploring territory that we had never anticipated. Particularly as solopreneurs and entrepreneurs. Whether we walk this path by choice or necessity, we have a series of experiences for which we are not prepared. Sales is often one of these things. Practical reality is that in the early days of a business we have to learn sales to grow our businesses.
Charley’s background is in engineering- that might be why his approach resonated for me. It could also be because it was straightforward, pragmatic and grounded advice. My engineering socks were going up and down. I prefer methodical approaches, as they let me plug away at my own pace.
As I listened to Charley share wisdom about sales, I was furiously typing notes into my instant meetings in Bella (hey- I wanted to be able to find them on my calendar again in the future, okay?). He dropped one wisdom gem after another. He reframed what I saw as traditional sales. I bet you’ve experienced it too. The slick, slimy, icky hustle experience that makes you want to take a shower. I am shuddering even as I type it. As a solopreneur or entrepreneur, those experiences can hold us back. It may even mean we avoid sales as long as possible. Have you ever avoided selling because it was uncomfortable? I know I have.
First and foremost, Sales is about solving problems.” I focused on three initial takeaways I heard when selling:
- Customer Business Outcomes
- Follow ups
My mind kept drifting back to what I heard over the next few days. So how do you break this down into a series of actions and behaviors to work on solving the problems?
What do you know about the pain points your customer is experiencing? It’s easy to assume based on your experiences where the customer is experiencing pain. If you’ve seen one, you have seen them all, right?
Stepping back and relating to your customer pain points is critical. The work environment for us continues to grow increasingly complex. The variety of business processes, technology, and globalization are presenting new challenges daily. Many years of implementing ERP taught me no two companies use technology the exact same way. There is a lot of variety depending upon internal processes, industry, etc.
Years of consulting has allowed me to get good at listening to what the customer is saying. Not listening to respond, but listening to understand. A customer may give a very long detailed story explaining their problems. This may mean repeating back what you think you heard to make sure you truly understood.
What if you are new to selling? How do build empathy with your customers? It made me think about how does a person develop empathy? I did some research and found this guide that was interesting.
Customer’s Business Outcomes
“Features don’t connect with the buyers. They are looking for business outcomes. Focus on the business outcomes.”
Are you focused on what you are trying to get out of the customer, or what the customer needs from you? This resonated with me since we have been using human centered design to build out Bella Scena. Understanding customer needs has been critical to make sure we built the right product in the right order.
I loved this quote from Charley- “If you aren’t interested in learning what their problems are so you can see if your solutions fit, you will give the same pitch over and over again.” Ouch- enough said on that one I think.
This whole topic does help me reflect on the selling approach we use. It made me think about what questions to ask to understand the customer’s business outcomes? Business outcomes as a topic feels nebulous. After all, you aren’t going to go say, “hey, what is the business outcome you are trying to achieve?” That would be weird, right? After doing some digging, I found a helpful Hubspot guide with good ideas for questions to ask.
How are you doing with the follow-ups you promised to do during your meeting with the customer? Do you even remember that they are? Here we heard, “Most salespeople take their own knees out around every corner”. If you aren’t tracking and performing your follow-ups, you are wasting your effort.
I admit it- I smiled when I heard this! Comments like this are exactly why we created Bella– to help track your meetings, notes, and follow-ups. PS- if you want a gentle nudge each day to help you exercise your planning muscle- check out the Bella Daily Nudge.
And that’s it for my key highlights I heard at my first Coffee and Closers. It was a great welcoming atmosphere, and great to listen to Mickeli Bedore interview Charley. This is definitely a must have (or listen to) for anyone trying to glean sales lessons to help grow their company.
Now it’s your turn-listen in on Charley’s interview and comment about what you took away from the conversation!