Nobody wants to make a mistake. In today’s business environment many people are more concerned about the risk of failure, error, judgement, criticism, and termination than they are with taking risks or operating outside the lines.
In a sales situation, too many sales professionals do not realize when they are challenging their clients’ decisions, thoughts, or processes that is exactly what they are doing — telling their customer they have made or are making a mistake.
Unless you have earned the right — the trust or confidence or solicitation of your perspective by the customer — it is counter productive to the relationship to simply launch into challenging or questioning someone’s actions. This does not mean that you are not supposed to interrupt their thinking. It means that being an expert or offering a better answer requires a more intelligent, measured approach.
Once you discover their “why” — why they are you doing this, why they decided on this approach, why they are embracing this strategy — you only have enough perspective to engage in a productive learning conversation. Remember, you hate to make mistakes, be challenged, or be told you are wrong — your customers don’t like it either.
Know your audience:
- Do they have the power, the authority, the confidence to affect the process, the decision, or the approach?
- Are they operating from a fully empowered state where risk, fear, and survival are not part of their professional emotion?
- Are they simply placed in a situation where they are following orders?
- Are they a willing participant in looking at or discovering an alternate view?
Just because you have an awareness that something is messed up does not mean it can easily be corrected, changed, improved or altered. Just because you are the expert does not mean the other party will be pleased, comfortable, or happy with your insights. Unless you have developed enough credibility to share your views, you may be seen as just another peddler with their own agenda and do not necessarily have the best interests of the client in mind.
- Take the time to understand the source and the process as to why something is the way it is;
- Discover and understand their process, their viewpoint, and their desire or interest in finding a better way;
- Engage them in thoughtful conversation until they express interest in better understanding an alternative view, process or idea.
- Ask great questions. Ask ever better questions after that.
- Use these questions to educate your audience while helping them discover for themselves the logic that you see.
When you follow the concerned, probing, intelligence gathering approach you are offering your client another way to express and explore their plan. Together you will be more informed, educated, and aware of all perspectives. This is a much better approach than simply going in and telling someone how smart you are or inadvertently projecting how wrong they are. Learn to learn and use you information gathering as a way to educated, inspire and create opportunity and you will go far. The expert advocate approach rarely works in today’s environment.