I had two interesting things happen this week in my role as ‘leader.’ I believe they’re related.
Making one small change to a technique forces the practitioner to examine the whole process which results in a much higher level of output than one simple change would imply.
One small change
I was working with two of the other senior students at my dojo (individually, as at this point in our practice, a lot of our work is done individually).
Let me describe my process.
First, I watched. I took in their “whole” technique, and let it sit with me. I watched some more and decided what it was that was “most important” to work with them. This part was done without them necessarily knowing that I was paying attention. In fact, sometimes it helps if I’m practicing alongside them because I can feel with my body what my eyes can’t quite see, or what my words can’t describe.
Next, I focused on one particular area, which I watch more intently. This often involves some guidance. I might mimic them to see if I can feel what they’re doing and how it differs from what I do. I might ask them to try a few things and see the results. Iterating until I get close to what my eye / heart tells me is where we need to focus.
Finally, if I really understand what I’m seeing, I’ll make one small change. If I don’t really understand it, the change could be more involved.
In the past week, working with these two people, the changes I made were so small that an observer (or even someone else in class of “lower” grade) wouldn’t be able to see what we’re working on. However, the impact was noticeable to senior-enough people, and very interesting to the students themselves.
Through the process, we all learn. In once case, a very specific change got the results we wanted. That change was so clear, I was able to use it as an exercise for a few lower level students a few days later.
This was pretty normal for me, as it details my approach to coaching/teaching/leading. What got me really excited was the parallel at work with one of my presales team-members.
What happens after the technique is good enough?
We had an issue at a customer that got escalated to me. It was a great opportunity to build a better relationship with this customer and it turned out that the experience they were looking for mapped to one of my best team members. That was a bit of a relief, because when trying to repair a relationship, it’s great when you have one of your best fit the requirements.
After the two day on-site session was done, the person who went onsite sent a beautifully written summary email. I literally read it three times through (it wasn’t long). Some of the things that popped out:
- It was comprehensive
- It used bullets
- It had lots of white space (easy to read)
- It included clear follow-up… both items (artifacts, like webex recordings) that were promised and future followup (regularly scheduled meetings)
- It was informal, but professional
My first thought was that we should use this as an example of what everyone on the team should do after an onsite visit. That would be a normal reaction. It would allow us to build better relationships, have more consistent followup (and expectation setting after an on-site visit), and make sure everyone is on the same page post-visit.
For those who didn’t automatically write as clearly as this example, it provides a template-of-sorts to help build their skills. That’s again, expected.
There’s an even more important point that’s obvious in the comparison between the training story I shared above and this email.
In both cases, if we let the technique teach us… we’ll find that it changes a lot more than that specific moment in time AND to get the most out of that correction we have to follow the thread of change where it takes us.Let the sales process be your teacher (building the craft of #presales). Click To Tweet
In the training story above, once they correct their cut, they were going to find that it changed the cut’s timing… which implies they have to change the timing of their step in order to keep the body and the sword in alignment. If they change the timing of the sword and body, it would change the “flavor” of what they do which would force other changes. One simple physical change to the cut leads to all other changes throughout the kata… and reverberates through other areas of their technique as well.
With the client memo… if we make such a memo mandatory for all on-site visits, it raises the tempo of the whole team. The visit isn’t done until that memo goes out. At that point, presales can take a leadership role in making sure all followup promised is delivered. It defines the tempo. It shows the customer (showing >> telling) how important it is to build a relationship (not fulfill a transaction).
It gives opportunity for correction after the visit if there’s something missing, or misunderstood. It keeps things moving forward. And, by writing it in the way it was done by my team-member, we set the tone (the flavor): casual and professional. We let the memo hold the specifics so that the people can connect around the job to be done.
It takes the assumptive position that “I’m” not going to consider that onsite visit to be complete/successful until everything in this email is addressed. And, when everything is addressed, it will likely lead to more (for example, whatever comes up on those regularly scheduled calls). All of this matters because we want to build relationships, not just execute transactions.
The presentation is as important as the results
This post sounds so much better in my head than it does on paper. But it’s an important point. Having a set of techniques that are fine-tuned to get the job done AND look good, enables a quiet competence that inspires the customer to connect.
It’s not whether the memo above is critical to success of the deal or not, but the memo sets the stage for success. It tilts the odds in our favor because we’re showing the customer that we’re going to participate in their success. It changes the tempo of the relationship and sales activity in a way that moves things — both the sale and the relationship — forward.Clarity is under-rated as a communications skill. That's why it's so interesting that so many presales people are only screened during the hiring process on their technical skills. Communications is way more important. Click To Tweet
There’s always opportunities to use tools like the memo to improve the process. It reminds me of a time…
I used to have a “competitive bakeoff” template that I’d use for on-site proof-of-concepts (POC’s). One time when I was doing two week-long POC’s back-to-back, afraid that I’d confuse the two results and forget some details of the first before completing the second, I actually wrote the final reports before going on-site. I just marked where I wanted to put screen shots and specific results, and as I did the POC I had a list of things I had to collect for my final-final reports.
Those final reports guided my on-site work in a way that drove clarity and made the POC not just the “moment in time” onsite, but the prep work to make sure I really understood what I was doing onsite, as well as the followup so that I left the prospect with a good reminder of our time together.
The artifact drove the process, just as the process drove the artifact. Doing so, elevated my game, which then clearly impacted my work with customers. This is really important when developing a team. It does matter what the presentation looks like. It does matter how much time you prepare, even if you’ve done it 100 times before.
And, it especially does matter that you have the opportunity to use the process to build a relationship rather than just complete a transaction.