Ben Zoldan in Stories | May 31, 2016 | No Comments

Selling from the Inside Out

At a time when a lot of us are trying to close deals, feeling immense pressure, I wanted to share a story that taught me the difference between relating the things that truly matter in our lives, vs. trying to get something from someone.

It was never more evident than an experience I had with Greg Miller, SVP Sales at Medicity – a client of mine, friend and mentor. He and I had worked together for the better part of a year, and Greg volunteered to come back and help facilitate at one of my Public Workshops. I had inadvertently scheduled this one at the end of a quarter. During the workshop, Greg is so clearly preoccupied. He tells me about an opportunity they’re trying to close.

It’s with one of the Nation’s largest Healthcare providers, so it’s a huge revenue opportunity. And now he’s being hammered on price; getting ultimatums from the CIO. He tells me about a negotiation call he just had, with the CIO exerting nothing but demands, but won’t listen. At one point, the CIO even said, “It’s your privilege to do business with us.” Its all pricing pressures, and the communication is now down to email. The CIO won’t take any more calls.

So, here we are in the workshop, and the two of us are trying to figure out what he can do. We talked about trying to relate a story (we’re un full story mode in our workshop) which would convey the pitfalls of buying things at the lowest price possible; compromising quality, etc. So, Greg breaks away from the workshop, goes up to his hotel room, comes back down a couple hours later with an elegantly written story about a decision he had made, where he’d pieced things together, in order to save money… leading to a disaster, and costing him more money in the long run. He shares the story with me, and I loved it. I felt it hit the nail on the head. I thought he should send it off to the CIO, and I told him so.

But Greg wasn’t as convinced. He said he wasn’t feeling it. Fortuitously, earlier in the workshop, we had come off an exercise where all the participants search out and share a story that illustrates why they do what they do – finding a personal connection and meaning to the work we all do. And he (we) had all shared with each other these deeply moving stories.

So, Greg leaves me again – still unsettled, goes back upstairs, drafts another email, but this one was different. He came back down and showed me the draft of an email that expressed the story he shared earlier in the workshop. And I’ve heard him share it before. It’s an extremely raw, intimate and deeply personal story about why he does what he does. Its heart felt, purposeful, emotional, inspiring, and you feel nothing but love for Greg after hearing it.

There’s no pretense with the story, there’s no “trying to sell anything”, it’s just the pure expression of purpose & meaning.

He tells me he’s wants to stop all the back & forth negotiation with the CIO, and he’s thinking of sending him ‘this’. We’re literally having this discussion at one of the breaks in the workshop, so we decide to propose what he’s about to do, with the group – have them weigh in. It was the perfect laboratory. We go back in the workshop, he plugs his computer to the projector, shows the draft email on the screen, gives everyone a little background, and asks them what they think.

The craziest thing happens – it creates a hornet’s nest in the workshop. I can’t tell you how many people were vehemently against him sending that kind of message off, especially in a negotiation. I clearly remember hearing an abrupt, “No, you can’t send something like that!” It was as if people in the workshop were now ganging up on Greg, and I’m guessing he’s now even more spun out.

Next, Greg sends the proposed email to his CEO, to get another pair of fresh eyes on it, almost to get his blessing. But even his CEO tells him to strike the personal story. “It’s inappropriate and doesn’t address the price negotiation.”
Knowing Greg, that was all the ammunition he needed. He’s like, “Screw it, I’m sending it.” And he does. He sends the CIO the email, which opens with, “I realized today that you weren’t deeply involved in the earlier parts of the sales cycle, so I just wanted to take a moment and share with you why I do what I do and why Medicity exists.” He hits “send” and his very personal story goes out to the CIO.

I’ll never forget his body language. It was as if all the weight of the world was lifted off his shoulders. He still seemed a little nervous about it, even admitting, “What did I just do?”, but at the same time, you could see total relief. He said it felt right.

The workshop continues, and I’m so curious to get an update – I’m dying to hear how the CIO responds. But here’s the thing – he doesn’t. There was no response. In fact, for the duration of the workshop – nothing. It turns out Greg never got another message/demand about pricing again. It just went away. His conversations with his Champions continued and it was just about getting the contract through Legal. The price held and Greg got the contract executed, without any further price negotiation. I think even Greg would admit he was shocked. Who knows what affects that email had.

But, sending that email to the CIO was not about a negotiation strategy or tactic. That would be missing the point. It was about something much bigger. And when I think back on that experience, I was the one who misdirected him. I encouraged him to find the “right tool for the job” – as if he could go into his toolkit of stories, and find the exact story to overcome an objection.

But Greg taught me something more important: when we find the courage to share what’s truly in our hearts, we affect people in the most profound way – we reach other people’s hearts. And when that happens, people will move mountains to support our cause. We create impassioned, fierce followers. Its as if we have a dimmer switch, and we can turn the dial, so all the noise, and all the B.S. can just go away. Relating our real, authentic stories – the experiences that shape who we are, trump any sales strategy, or superficial negotiation tactic.

Greg’s contract was signed before the end of the quarter and turned out to be a multi-year, $55MM contract. And sure, the contract value was significant, but I know for Greg, it wasn’t just about that – he was doing his part to affect real, meaningful change in the world.

There’s such a difference between sharing the things we believe in vs. employing all the tricks in the book, in order try to get something from someone.

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