Honest Customer Feedback is the Cure for Insanity
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Unknown
This is obviously a cultural rather than a medical definition, but if you sell for a living, and you cannot figure out what you’re doing that’s causing you to lose deals you were sure you were going to win, you might start to feel like you’re losing your mind.
When you get some honest feedback, and start doing different things, the outcomes change, and the insanity goes away. Suddenly the world makes a lot more sense, and you’re closing a lot more deals.
Tell the Truth
If you want to one day benefit from honest feedback, you should start building truth-telling relationships. That means telling prospects “no” when “no” is the correct answer. “No, our solution won’t do that yet.” “No, I cannot offer you a larger discount.” “No, we cannot implement the solution any faster than that.”
You can steer them to positive features of the solution or favorable aspects of the contract terms, but being honest is key to becoming a trusted advisor, a key position in B2B sales.
Creating a relationship of mutual honesty takes courage because when you’re selling, you want to present desirable solutions. But in order to influence the final decision, it’s best to be seen as an expert rather than a “pleaser.”
Hear the Truth
When someone – a friend, a co-worker, a supervisor, a client, or a prospect – is honest with you, it is proof that you are respected and admired. People are honest when they know that you are strong, capable and smart enough to hear the truth. They don’t have to pretend everything is fine when it’s not. They don’t have to pretend you did a great job when you didn’t. Because, to amend the famous line from A Few Good Men, “you can handle the truth.”
You need to hear the truth so you can improve – your preparation, your pitch, your presentation, your product – and win more deals in the future. Colin Powell said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” Sales can be a hard career unless you view failures as opportunities to learn and are willing to listen. Other people hold the lesson to your failures and your successes.
And yes, you can also learn from your successes. What did you do right? How can you make sure you repeat those good practices that helped you close the deal? The truth isn’t always bad. Sometimes, it’s commendation and acknowledgement of the preparation and hard work you put in to be successful.
Elicit the Truth
First, you start down the honesty path, as stated above. If you are not honest with your prospects, you will be lucky to get any feedback at all, and if you do, it will likely be painful to hear. Successful professionals want to work with people they trust, and avoid people they don’t trust.
Second, ask for the feedback as a favor – a positive form of assistance rather than some kind of bitter medicine you have to take. Explain that constructive criticism will help you be more successful. Otherwise, people’s desire to be polite and not hurt feelings can filter out the hard truths you need.
Third, ask for tips on ways to improve rather than just their opinions. The people you are selling to have seen lots of sales presentations, some that work, many that don’t. Allowing the feedback to come as a helpful tip removes any uneasy feelings that might come from criticism alone.
Get the Right Truth
The only honest customer feedback that really matters is the truth told by the decision-maker. Do your best to get that feedback directly from the source. It doesn’t make sense to change what you do based on feedback from people who didn’t make the decision. While their feedback may be generally helpful, the adjustments you make might not be aligned with the result you want – winning more deals.
The world of B2B sales begins to make a lot more sense when you know why buyers say “yes” and why they say “no.” But until you have those answers, you are going through the same motions and pitches every day and getting the same results. It is insanity: it’s hard work, it’s disappointing, and it’s leaving deals behind that you might have won. Learning from honest feedback makes the world of B2B sales a much saner – and more successful – place.