It is crucial you develop a theory as to why your dream client should change. If you are professionally, persistently pursuing their business, you need to know why they should consider doing something different—without you having to ask what’s keeping them up at night. In Chapter 2 of Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, you will find an easy to follow recipe for developing a general theory out of super-trends and their implications. From there, you can work on a more specific theory—or theories.
A General Theory About Change
Whatever your company does, the founders had a theory about their ideal client and what problem they were solving for them. A medical device manufacturer starts with the broad theory that surgeons need knee joints and hip joints to help their patients. A software company creates a program to help a person or company do something they would otherwise have to do in a more limited format, maybe a format that makes it more challenging to create and impossible to share.
Your company has a general theory about why it exists. The arguments in the prior paragraph are too broad and too vague to be useful in sales if you need to displace your competitor to win new business. In these cases, your dream client has already made the first decision, the decision to buy whatever it is you sell. Your theory has to be something more strategic.
The trends that might compel that change are advancements in new technologies that are better and more comfortable and durable. Another trend might be that insurance companies pay more for better medical devices that reduce the overall cost of treatment and reducing recovery time. It might also be possible to reduce the time it takes to perform the procedure, allowing the surgeon to do multiple surgeries in the same day (the brain surgeon that removed my AVM did two operations at the same time).
A more specific general theory, one that might cause a doctor to change from one manufacturer to another, might be a new substrate that is easier to use, that lasts longer, and speeds up the patient’s recovery time and allows them to best use their time in the medical facility. If the surgeon believes these outcomes are strategic, they might believe they’re worth exploring change. The conversation is more than discovery; it is exploration, where both sides walk away knowing more.
Be More Specific
From the general theory, you can drill down to a much more specific theory. If you sell knee and hip joints, you might learn that some reasonably large percentage of surgeons are unhappy with the procedure required to install the medical device. The whole procedure is complicated enough, but something about the product they’re using makes it more complicated. After exploring change with a half dozen surgeons, you recognize that one more specific theory is that one type of surgery is more difficult because of the same process required by the device.
That is only one theory. Maybe you find out that the devices don’t last as long as you would want them to, and that they cause a lot of patients to suffer and complain. You now have another specific theory as to why your dream client should change.
How You Get from the Trends to Change
By sharing the fact that there are new materials, you can work towards a conversation about how long patients with the old material are able to go longer without having to undergo another surgery versus patients using new materials. The trend is towards new materials, and this point is made more powerful if you show other new materials in addition to the new material you use in your device. The trend is neutral; it’s true whether it’s your device or some other made of new material.
The Value of Stockpiling Specifics
It takes time and effort to build a territory and account plan. To prospect effectively, you need a general theory about why your dream client should change. You need a more specific theory to explore the reason your dream client should change. As you go through the process of having these sales conversations, you move closer to the particular approach that is most compelling to your prospective client.
As you work to discover the different specific reasons your dream clients change what they are doing, you become aware of the factors that allow you to quickly get to compelling reasons your dream client should do something different. If you were to take a piece of paper and write down the general theory your business was created, you’d have something comprehensive.
As you pay attention to the trends that are going to impact your clients and prospects, you’ll start to discover more specific theories, like the one I used in ETL about 11,000 baby boomers retiring every day and the lack of people to backfill their roles—and their skills. For some prospects, that trend might provide a theory that they should build a training program to replace the Boomers with Gen X or Millennials or Gen Z. For another, the theory might be attracting the retirees to bring their knowledge and experience into their new business as a way to speed up their results.
You need a good general theory about what your dream client should change, but as you sell, you should be more specific.
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