Deep Listening – Sales Discovery as an Ongoing Process

Stu Perlmeter

Why deep customer listening is a winning strategy

All companies are committed to winning – but sometimes leadership teams don’t act like it. As much energy that goes into strategy and planning, CRM deployments and sales analytics – you would expect spectacular results.

Results often fall short of expectations, and it is not for lack of desire, investment or commitment.

What would make things better? For most companies, shifting the focus from, “Why did a competitor win a deal that should have been ours?” to “What solution or value set wins”? What’s the difference, you may ask?

Plenty. While this pivot might seem subtle, it makes all the difference. Consider that once you have made all the strategic and tactical moves mentioned above, the remaining investment that matters is in customer listening. After all, it is the customers that ultimately choose you and your solution, vs. the competitor, and unless you have a way to listen deeply, you will miss important nuances.

What is Deep Listening?

At the end of the customer sales cycle, the prospect has now been through a journey has decided – either in your favor, or not.  What we as sellers call the customer journey doesn’t look like a journey at all to the buyer; it’s more of an exploration, team collaboration and ultimately, an experience.

When a final decision is made, buyers are likely at the end of a highly introspective process; one in which they had to reflect on what was truly important. Clarity about these decision / selection factors often is distant from what they thought was most important at the outset of their journey.

Of course, they “went to school” on the various solution providers, including you, in feeding their introspection. Granted, you may have done a stellar sales discovery and qualification process – early in the journey.

Whatever role vendor education might have played, the typical scenario is that in the process of selecting, many internal voices were heard. And through some process, they chose. Maybe a smart decision, and maybe not.

The key point here is that the decision process was inside-out, not outside-in. If your marketing, product and sales orientation is one of simply selling your “best fit” solution, and not tracking along with the shifts and pivots in buyer thinking, you are likely missing some success opportunities.

Quick Summary: The sales discovery process must continue throughout the customer consideration process. As the internal definition of the ideal solution and selection criteria evolve, and that involves more than just tracking with the timing of the decision and asking if everyone is still on board with the solution you are proposing.

Listening deeply allows you to understand when the buyer is leaning toward the competitor – for all the wrong reasons. You can then respond with your own counter-messaging and inoculate against the inaccurate messages they are getting from your competitors.

So what wins is continuing the discovery process throughout the customer consideration cycle, to make sure the customer isn’t getting swept away with the competitor’s persuasion and possible misinformation about your company and solution.

About the Author

Stu Perlmeter

Website Google+ LinkedIn

Stu brings 30 years of marketing and research experience to 1st Resource, which he founded in 1996. Stu’s primary expertise is in understanding the market insights that tie to success formulas for companies seeking to grow their business in strategic ways.