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The habit that jumped out for me was “Seek to understand first, in order to be understood.” I found this statement to be such a game changer, as we develop our staff and move them out of “pitching” solutions and, instead, into understanding the bigger picture for prospective clients. Asking more questions such as:
- Why does the customer have to act now?
- What improvements or results does the solution need to provide?
- How long or short is the timeline for deployment?
- What other factors affect their decision?
“Seek to understand first…”
I feel we do a good job of seeking to understand the deeper issues that customers are trying to fix, and in turn, refrain from any premature diagnosis. For some instances, it may turn out that we are not the ideal vendor. Perhaps another vendor has a better fit for an Order to Cash Project. Maybe the prospect would be better off to not make any changes? Maybe they rather build a solution in house? It is better that we are open and honest about our strengths and weaknesses, so that we can achieve a “win” – even if in the end that “win” means “no deal.”
“…in order to be understood.”
What struck me was the idea that if we truly applied the same principal on every sales call, project meeting, technical support case or internal discussion, the level of trust between vendor and customer would reach new levels. Covey talked about applying the 7 habits to develop great culture, where employees and customers felt understood and appreciated.
Medrad (Bayer) embodied this when their Customer Service Director implemented training and investment towards their communications, people, new procedures—and all together, greater respect for the employees and customers combined by initiating a sales order automation project. The results were:
- Winning the Malcolm Baldrige Customer Service Award two consecutive times.
- Increased customer retention.
- Improved margins.
Unfortunately, Stephen Covey passed in 2012. Yet I am excited to continue practicing this particular habit for the benefit of our customers, employees, and to ensure that I continue to learn. I even get excited when I remember to apply the skill at home. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to pass the idea of patience and seeking to understand as a life skill my daughter will benefit from—maybe the ’Why Daddy?’ stage has its value after all.