The More We Give, The More We Impact the Bottom Line
Early in my career I learned a really important lesson. I didn't even know that I was learning it at the time. I was in my early 20s, and participating in a very intense leadership program that involved enrollment in some powerful, experiential workshops that would impact my life forever.
I didn't always enroll people. There was a great deal of pressure to enroll, and I learned some really important lessons by falling on my face and losing a few friends (who eventually came back). When I did start to enroll people in these workshops, I found it was because I had decided NOT to sell them a workshop. It was because I was genuinely focused on what the person sitting in front of me cared about. In more modern terms - I was focused on their WHY.
I took that learning into my first sales job. We didn't really go everywhere with computers in those times. In fact, I don't even think we had laptops. In my first sales job I travelled a lot around the country. I remember so clearly that on my sales calls to large CAD software companies, I would sit in my rental car before the meeting and contemplate the business of my customer, and I would write down some thoughtful and curious questions. I wasn't going into the meetings to present a PowerPoint deck, or sell what I had to offer. I went into these meetings focused only on learning about my customer's business, their sales and marketing challenges, their goals and opportunities.
It's such a clear set of memories because I truly enjoyed those meetings. I think my customers did too, because they understood that I wasn't going to offer them anything to spend their precious budget on until I learned more about what was important and valuable to them. And once I learned, I would construct something that I felt could help them reach the objectives I heard them share. I consistently achieved 200% quota, and unfortunately in those days we had a commission cap, so I eventually moved on.
This became a practice of mine over the years, and it wasn't just when I was carrying a bag, selling with a quota. It became a practice in my accidental transition to Product Marketing, that eventually became a core part of my career. I have had so many internal customers and external customers and partners over the years. I always felt that to do the best job possible, I had to care enough to ask questions and learn about the needs and cares of my situational customers, from sales teams (who I also viewed as Account Managers and Systems Engineers because both groups had varying needs and interests), to Product Management, channels, end-users, to understanding cultural nuances, and so on.
There was magic that came by focusing outward on my customer needs, instead of on getting to a quota or an arbitrary lead target. I built a pretty good reputation for being obsessively customer-driven. I built trust. I was invited to speak and participate and contribute in global sales and product meetings that wasn't so typical for Product Marketers. I became central to meaningful customer engagements that resulted in lasting business, I surpassed quotas, and built life-long relationships - people I can call on even if we haven't spoken in years.
I know the pressures we are under to perform. But I encourage you to consider what it might be like to put down the PowerPoint, forget the features and functions and cool things you have to offer. Before you make that next customer call (internal or external), take out a piece of paper and a pen (or open the notes app on your phone), and white down a few meaningful questions that would help you to learn more about your customer and their business, what they care about, what they worry about, what would make them feel fulfilled, and how would that look? Consider that at the end of the day we are all just human beings trying to get a win.
Guaranteed and practiced time and time again, when we focus our attention more on our team or customer win than our own, in the end WE ALL WIN.