Mr. Brothers is an account manager at a large IT company. His clients include well-known companies like Langnese, Mercedes Benz, John Deere, and Schott. He has been working for this company for over 15 years, and so he knows exactly what his customers want. He is always the most successful sales expert on his team.
He thinks that so many sales innovations are ridiculous. So he is not so quick to use new approaches. After all, he has been extremely successfully for ages now. So why should he do something new? But there are some things he can’t avoid because they are required, and if he doesn’t do them, his bonus might be lower. For instance, his PowerPoint presentations have to follow certain guidelines. He always has to use visualized images that will suit his customer.
With some reluctance, he has the marketing department prepare these visualizations for him. He finds this terribly annoying because they always ask lots of questions. What’s the product? What kind of customer? What’s the customer’s problem, and on and on. He answers these questions in short order, uses the images they give him, and goes to see his customer. What’s the point of all this, he wonders. It doesn’t help sales, and it just a huge waste of time and money.
Experience and product knowledge alone are not enough
Mr. Brothers is gearing up for his next appointment. The customer is major manufacturer of agricultural machinery who wants to set up a new customer relations platform to assist his customers at every step along the way (Meyerhoff, 2019). Of course, Mr. Brothers understands his customers’ problems quite well, or at least he thinks he does.
Up till now, he has been using his own software. It has all kinds of interfaces, but still sometimes things don’t go so smoothly. Employees in other departments don’t have the faintest idea what their coworkers in other departments are doing. As processes move along, the problems are not so easy to see, and he has trouble finding out how they will affect his customers. Data is input more than once, and this leads to mistakes and wrong information. This silo mentality has to be dealt with.
Mr. Brothers walks into the company building in good spirits, full of enthusiasm. The receptionist welcomes him and shows him to the meeting room. Coffee, beverages, and snacks are all laid out, and Mr. Brothers is ready to get things started. He’s looking forward to an awesome conversation. He begins to set up right away. He takes out his laptop for the presentation, connects it to the projector, calls up his presentation and starts a trial run. Everything is working just fine. Then he takes out his notepad and pen, pours himself a glass of water, and is ready to get started.
Gradually, the people taking part start trickling in. Since this is a big project with important decisions involved, there will be a number of people participating. The manager, his assistant, the buyer in charge along with his coworker, and the people who head up customer service since they will have to work with whatever solution materializes.
Everybody is very cordial, says hello, and starts chatting casually about how nice the spring weather is, and how their kids are already asking for ice cream and wanting to know when the swimming pools will be opening. Eventually, it is time to start.
What not to do
Mr. Brothers starts up his presentation and gets things rolling. He explains how fabulous his company is and how long has it been in the market. He drops the names of a few impressive accounts before starting to explain what’s wrong with conventional CRM solutions. These people sure already know how many interfaces are needed between individual software solutions for customer support. But having so many can also produce losses and errors. And that is exactly why they need a new customer relations platform to solve all these problems immediately. And this one includes AI to boot. This will make everything move faster.
The customers are all nodding their heads. They know all this already. That’s why they are interested in his software. His visualization makes his audience wince a bit. Finally, the manager asks: “Just what is it that this software can offer us,” and then explains that making changes will take extra energy and cost more. That’s why we need to be sure that the new platform will really solve our problems.
Mr. Brothers is irritated. Didn’t he just explain everything and present a clear picture? This is the first time ever that his customers didn’t understood what he said. He shows a few more slides and repeats his explanation. This time, he uses different words to explain technical terms and abbreviations. He calls their attention to his images. But his customer still keeps asking the same question: “That’s all well and good and it’s the reason we asked you to come to our office. But just how will this platform solve our problem?”
Mr. Brothers is at a loss and can’t quite see his way out of this one. He recalls that just the other day he was reading a book about holistic strategies for solving customer problems by using various approaches that a sales expert could take (Hamel, Steimer, & Purle, 2019). He smiled and put it back on the shelf. Now he is regrets that he did. Maybe one of those approaches would come in handy now. He decides to end today’s meeting early and try a new approach next time. He says that he needs to come up with something that will take less time and be just right to solve their problem. His customer agrees, and they set up another appointment.
New paths leading to new experiences
On the way back to his office, Mr. Brothers stops by a bookstore and picks up a copy of Toolbox for B2B Sales.Then he takes it home and starts reading it. He is already familiar with some of the approaches, but others are new to him. Then he stumbles on the Visual Selling® Discovery Punch. This is just what he needs. After all, he wants to get off to fresh start with this customer, and he really wants to understand his needs. Obviously the problem is a bit different from what Mr. Brothers thought it was at first. Now he wants to get to the root of things so that he can come up with just the right solution.
He keeps on reading. Ask questions and visualize live. Hmm. What kind of images should I add during the conversation? How can I do that? Mr. Brothers is not quite sure, but he wants to give it a try. The book has a very nice template (see Fig. 2). So he takes out his iPad and a stylus and is ready to get going. The Punch itself is really not that difficult. After all, he has a lot of experience talking to customers.
The book mentions another book on Visual Selling®, which is a method that uses visualizations to enhance customer dialogs (Hamel & Hamel, 2016). It turns out to be a workbook, and it looks like just the thing to help him hone his skills. And he discovers that there is even an eBook. He buys it right away and gets started. He is delighted to find out how much fun it is and that it’s not so difficult after all. And the best thing is, he doesn’t have to be a Picasso. He can just visualize in his own style.
From the very start, he is able to visualize the goal he wants to achieve with the book. Of course he would like to win over customers and do this honestly in a way that suits them. And he wants his customers to understand him as well and to get excited about their relationship. As he thinks about all this, he sketches it out—and he starts liking what he sees (see Fig. 3). He used to think that he couldn’t draw at all, but that turns out not to be the case. He prints his drawing and hangs it on the wall of his office.
He is now completely caught up with this book and continues reading. He is surprised to find out how long people have been using visualizations to communicate with each other, and yet people still find this difficult to do today. It is becoming obvious to him why people who don’t use visual communication end up misunderstanding each other. Now he understands what happened during his recent appointment, and why there were so many misunderstandings.
Why you should use image libraries
As he reads further along, the book suggests that it would be useful to build up an image library for frequently-used images. That is exactly what Mr. Brothers starts to do. He imagines what kinds of images would be just right at his next appointment with one of his best customers. What kind of images would fit? What kinds of ideas do I want to get across? Which images should I use to describe my customer relations platform? He logs on to the Learning Platform and downloads some more templates. He does what the book suggests and soon has a stunning collection of images that he really feels good about (see Fig. 1, Fig. 4 and Fig. 5). Now he is ready to enter the fray a second time—and this time, he is positive that his customer will be more interested.
Two days later he visits his customer again. He has worked on the Visual Selling® Discovery Punch template (see Fig. 2), and he is sure that his conversation with his customer will take a very different direction this time. Mr. Brothers has a spring in his step as he enter the company building. The receptionist greet him again and shows him into the meeting room. He starts setting up right away, gets his iPad and stylus ready, and then opens up the template he has prepared for the Discovery Stage. Then he connects his iPad to the projector using AppleTV, and now he is good to go. This time, everybody at the meeting will be able to take a look at his visualizations. So far, so good. He has a swig of water and pours himself a cup of coffee. Now he’s really ready to talk to his dialog partners.
Soon they come into the room, and they immediately notice a change. They can already sense that something is going to be very different this time. Everybody is relaxed and friendly. They carry on the usual chit-chat with each other, and then gradually the meeting talking. He begins by posing several questions and proceeds to answer them. He doesn’t make it into a question and answer session exactly, but simply carries on a normal conversation about what his customer is really interested in.
Why live visualization makes conversations easy
He is able to visualize his ideas live in real time. Everybody can follow what he is saying and this leads to a robust discussion. Mr. Brothers’ customers are amazed that he can understand everything they say this time. And at the same time, they can tell right away if there is something that he doesn’t understand. If there is, they can correct it on the spot before they go on talking about the subject. This ends up being what amounts to quite a worthwhile multilog.
In no time, their individual problems are cleared up. Mr. Brothers finally understands that their biggest problem is not really the software silos and all the interfaces. A much bigger problem is that they are not able to come up with just the right marketing approach for individual customers. What they need most of all is self-learning software that will help them with customer management and that always comes up with the best approach.
Now that he knows this, Mr. Brothers can present his product in a different light. The basic implementation will look different and can be individually customized for every customer. Every single module doesn’t have to be used right away, but different components and functions can be added gradually.
Everybody is enthusiastic, and they make a decision to buy his customer relations platform. Of course, right after the meeting, Mr. Brothers makes sure to send them his visual notes on the discussion so that everything they talked about will be clear, and it will be easy to see what the next steps are.
Mr. Brothers final thought is: “Well, even with fifteen years of experience, it always helps to do something different” And it’s really a lot of fun too.
Hamel, M., & Hamel, M. (2016). Visual Selling – The workbook for live visualization in client meetings.Weinheim: Wiley-VCH & Co. KGaA. (at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2VlTXY6)
Hamel, M., Steimer, S., & Purle, E. (2019). The Toolbox for B2B sales—visually, Stuttgart: Schaeffer-Poeschel Verlag fuer Wirtschaft Steuern Recht GmbH, Stuttgart [Schaeffer-Poeschel Publishers for Business Tax Law GmbH, Stuttgart] (reserve: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Meyerhoff, R. (11 February 2019). Die Zeiten von CRM sind vorbei[The days of CRM are over]. Accessed on 1 April 2019 from SAP News: https://news.sap.com/germany/2019/02/die-zeiten-von-crm-sind-vorbei/?source=social-de-whatsapp-2019_SocialDE-blog -newscenter & campaigncode = CRM DE19 SOC SOC_WHA