Monthly Archives: October 2018

In memoriam…

I was totally set up to write a blog about something sales-related this week, but I can’t get what happened at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh out of my mind. So, if you only want to hear about business from me, skip this week’s blog.

And if you are reading this line right now, thank you.

The sadness of such random violence has reached a tipping point for me.

I know we live in a 24-hour-news-driven culture, with an almost non-stop barrage of negativity. But it certainly seems to me that evil is abounding.

The pain we inflict on ourselves in this country, let alone the pain we inflict on ourselves around the globe, is simply abhorrent.

Which has me wondering – is it avoidable?

That’s where my head (and heart) keeps going.

Is it avoidable?

Can it be attacked?

Can it be diminished?

Can we make it go away?

I’m a psychology guy. I even have a master’s in it. And I am reminded of social identity theory. It’s the theory that describes “us vs. them” thinking. And I think it’s essential to the question.

It was primarily developed by Henri Tajfel, who – as a Polish Jew – had avoided the Nazis in Poland, joined the French Army, and was captured by the Germans early in WW2. (Trust me, the irony that a Jewish survivor of Nazi Germany created this theory is not lost on me.)

Basically, the theory states that we all seek social status for the group(s) we belong to in order to create/protect our sense of identity. In other words, the more status I can achieve for/with my group, the stronger my identity will feel. And if my identity feels weak, I should seek to increase the status of my group.

In a mostly benign way, this is why New York Yankee fans are so obnoxious. 🙂

If you support the Yankees, you likely feel superior to other fans (even though you never even played pro baseball). And if your team has lost to the Yankees, you likely hate their fans as well. Even though none of them played against your team.

Now, insert other group definitions. Like race, political party, gender, generation, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

And it gets toxic quickly.

We see whole groups of people attacking other whole groups of people. The words alone are vicious, bitter, and hurtful.

All in the name of making our group superior to theirs. Of lessening their status. Which ultimately leads to making our sense of identity feel better. Stronger. Grander.

But here is the twist. The need to feel superior is driven by a feeling of inferiority. Of feeling weak. Of feeling insignificant.

In other words, healthy people don’t feel the need to be superior. But unhealthy people do.

And this makes me wonder – is our real problem basically a society-wide inferiority complex? That we have reached a point where the collective is so insecure, and thus angry, that people are now acting out in groups to physically hurt others?

If this is true, this would mean that groups like Antifa and the Alt-Right are not exceptions, but the growing norm.

And the only way to fight this is to not fight it. Because attacking someone who is violently insecure will only spread their insecurity. Will only reinforce their insecurity.

I am certainly not saying that we tolerate the violence. Or the racism. Or the inequality. Or whatever evil is done in the name of “us vs. them.”

No, I am saying that Dr. King had it right.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”


I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

Insights from listening to a buyer

I recently spent a week with a client and they brought in one of their customers to speak. It was fantastic. Not only were we able to explore the value relationship for that particular customer (why did they actually buy?), but we heard a number of things that apply to buyers across industries, markets, geographies, etc. And that’s the focus of this week’s blog.

1) “When can my team get t-shirts?”

This was a serious comment from the buyer. It wasn’t about getting swag. Far from it. It was about helping his team create an emotional connection to the supplier so that they had:

  • Positive regard for the brand (which led to trust/reaching out directly to the supplier for help when needed) and
  • Commitment (which led to his employees owning problems WITH the supplier and working to fix them, instead of potentially thinking “if we only had this other company to work with” and not making the effort to fix problems).

Can you say that you are working to create an emotional connection with your clients? If not, you have an easy opportunity to do so. Give your customers:

  • Awards – formally acknowledge them for excellence among their peers
  • Recognition – let them know you respect them and their achievements
  • Special access/research – provide resources and insights that few others have
  • And, yes, t-shirts and mugs – have their people silently promoting your brand while doing their work

At the end of the day, the classic maxim is true: if they don’t like you, they won’t buy from you.

2) “The decision came down to believability.”

I commented on this earlier this week (hit the follow buttons on my LinkedIn and Facebook feeds for short insights like this each work day), but the bottom line is that your most precious asset as a seller is credibility.

If you don’t invest in and aggressively protect your credibility, no one will buy from you.

How do you do this? Make sure you know how to:

  • Fulfill your promises
  • Communicate professionally
  • Manage your time
  • Make ethical decisions
  • Respect and include diversity
  • Use technology well

And if you really want to elevate your game, help your key customers grow and protect their own credibility with their peers and stakeholders internally.

3) “We keep a layer between our execs and our suppliers. We try to keep our executives out of the weeds.”

Know that selling to the C-Suite may not always be in your best interests, for a number of reasons like:

  • Unless you are critical to their overall business strategy, you aren’t a priority for their day-to-day reality. And that’s okay, as long as you help the next layer down be as successful/effective as possible.
  • The next layer down is trying to get stuff done. Having senior executives involved quite often slows everything down and gets in the way. If your goal is to deliver maximum value in the fastest way possible, respect this dynamic.
  • If you have risks and other issues “in the weeds,” you want to protect your own credibility as long as possible. Exposing the hiccups of your most recent implementation to senior executives is usually not advisable.

This blog is already long enough, but let me throw out some other random comments that were valuable (the interview was really that good).

  • “We scale rollouts depending on the features. Smaller rollouts for more complex/potentially disruptive features. Global rollouts for simpler/non-disruptive features.” (Hint: the level of disruption is the key criteria here)
  • “Our senior execs either believe us – which leads to an automatic yes – or they don’t – which leads to an automatic no.”
  • (Regarding how they support their own internal stakeholders) “We must constantly think about how we prepare for the future. If we don’t prepare, it will come fast and get us killed (from an SLA perspective).”
  • “The biggest turn-off for me as a buyer is getting oversold.”
  • “Turn off the selling button every time you come to the office. If you are going to come in, use your time to help us solve problems instead.”

And the list really does go on.

Bottom line: if you haven’t been interviewing your customers – or better yet, inviting them to address your team – you are missing out. BIG TIME.

Because you already know… while customers may not always be right, they ALWAYS MATTER.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

Are you really a “customer first” kind of person?

I have been doing a lot of networking lately. You can probably picture some of the exchanges I am experiencing. A friendly introduction, some mild chit chat/attempts at humor, then working toward an explanation of what each of us does.

And I am amazed at how often I hear nothing about the customers involved.

In other words, I always hear things like, “I work for a B2B technology company selling X.”


Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

It’s crazy to me. Especially when I consider how the customer is rarely mentioned. And considering how much we hear about customer first, customer focus, etc., I wonder if people are genuinely committed to their customers.

Consider this easy alternative: “I help other businesses figure out how to scale their growth with technology.” (Or whatever describes your customers.)

Can you see the advantages of this approach?

First, it obviously puts the customer(s) being served in the center of your mindset. You really do think “customer first” when you inject them into the front part of your dialogue. And you probably already know the benefits of this kind of thinking. But have you and your team embedded it into everything that is done and said? More importantly, would your customers agree?

Second, it opens the door to new business. Talking about how you help your customers allows the other person to potentially say that they have the same challenge/desired outcome. At the very least, they may know someone else who you should be talking with. And that door to new business appears on its own.

Third, it allows you to collect information from people who might not be a customer but certainly represent your target audience. I cannot tell you how many times I have talked with people on airplanes and gotten incredible insights about their company’s leadership, strategies, and so forth. It’s like a mini-focus group where the transparency is paramount. You really do get to hear all about the junk that your target market is dealing with – even if they don’t want to admit it.

But if you are going to get really serious about injecting customer focus, you know you have to get beyond introductory conversations and give a very intentional look into how your organization anchors its efforts to customer outcomes.

  • Has your company defined the specific customer outcomes that everyone can impact? Do you talk about those impacts – or just how much money each customer is worth? Everyone’s goals should be anchored to customer outcomes in some way.
  • How do your team mates describe what they do? Are they truly customer first? Everyone’s role should be anchored to how they support the customer experience.
  • Has your company defined the processes that affect customer interactions? Do they show respect for the outcomes you promised to deliver to your customers – or do they get in the way of delivering those outcomes? Every process should at least be analyzed for customer impact. Yes, that includes HR, Finance, and other “non-customer facing” groups because they have the greatest potential of competing with the customer.

You may not have the authority to change each of these areas, but you do have influence. Start with where you can personally make an impact and create customer focus that’s just “different” from everyone else. Then change your team. Then your group. Then who knows? You may even change your company.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.