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Some call it the customer buying journey, or a sales cycle, but collectively, we are moving to the ideology of the Customer Deciding Journey.
This week’s guest is Tim Riesterer, author of The Sales Expansion, and Chief Strategy Officer of Corporate Visions. In this two-part series, we will explore the first section of the Customer Deciding Journey: Create, Elevate, and Capture. This methodology revolves around presenting to the customer, “why should I change?” Creating the value gives the reason behind the change and develop that buying vision. Elevating value is explaining the rationale decision-making to that business outcome, so it is a rational choice. To Capture value is explaining to the customer why they should pay for what you’re selling. Tim explains the psychology and has the science behind why this methodology works.
Tim Riesterer is responsible for leading the strategic direction of Corporate Visions in thought leadership, positioning, and product development. He also leads the company’s consulting team globally, including staff and certified contractors. Tim has more than 20 years of experience in Marketing and Sales. Before joining Corporate Visions, Tim co-founded Customer Message Management, LLC (CMM Group), where he was CEO until Corporate Visions acquired it in 2008. Before CMM Group, Tim was CMO and VP of Strategic Services for Ventaso. Additionally, Tim was President and CEO of Brady Marketing Group and has worked in marketing, communication, and sales support for world-class technology manufacturers such as Rockwell Automation and GE Medical Systems.
Tim is co-author of Customer Message Management: Increasing Marketing’s Impact on Selling (Thomson/AMA), Conversations that Win the Complex Sale: Using Power Messaging to Create More Opportunities, Differentiate Your Solution, and Close More Deals (McGraw Hill), and The Three Value Conversations: How to Create, Elevate, and Capture Customer Value at Every Stage of the Long-Lead Sale (McGraw Hill) and has a degree in Mass Communications and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. One of my favorite speakers that I’ve ever witnessed is Mr. Tim Riesterer. He’s the Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions. And when I first met him was in Banff, Alberta in 2018 at Conquer Local. And Tim was the keynote speaker and he spoke about the unconsidered need and he was riveting. The entire audience was just riveted by the knowledge that this gentleman has around decision science and the cognitive load that a buyer goes through as they’re walking through the customer journey. Well Tim and his organization have released a new book back in February called “
The Expansion Sale. And we’re gonna talk about that. We’re going to dig into his big brain of 20 some odd years of experience in marketing and sales. And we’re going to learn about this customer deciding journey. Part one of that customer deciding journey is coming up next with Mr. Tim Riesterer on the Conquer Local Podcast. It is the Conquer Local Podcast. Tim Riesterer joining us. Tim, good to see you again. It’s been a few years since we had you as the keynote speaker and I was trying to think back as to the date, 2018 you were onstage.
Tim: Yep, Banff in the castle.
George: It was such an incredible venue. And I do know that of all of the speakers that we’ve had at Conquer Local, you know, I’d really appreciate the learnings that you gave to our audience at that event. And we’re here to talk more with you around a number of different topics. But first, can you give us a little bit of your background and how you arrived at this, an author, a keynote speaker, in-demand expert? A little bit of your background, Tim, for our audience that may not be as familiar as some of those people who were in the audience back in 2018 in Banff.
Tim: Well, I’m a wannabe Ph.D. in decision-making science, but I’ve put almost 30 years into it now so I think that like maybe there’s an honorary doctorate in there somewhere. But the thing is I study, what’s unique about this is I look at how humans and in the selling sense, how customers frame value and make choices. And there’s this field of study called the decision sciences. So things like behavioral economics and how people rationally or irrationally make decisions and how you can know that and affect that. And cognitive neuroscience, like literally how the brain functions in decision making. And then finally social psychology, the impact of group and social proof and things like that. So you triangulate those three areas and then I do original studies with PhDs in each of those areas and we do them in selling and marketing. And I like to net that out, we talk about customer conversations. How you can improve your customer conversation by applying decision-making science.
George: Well, congratulations on the new book that you released back in February. We’re gonna get into The Expansion Sale as we walk through this episode. But I wanted to get that background first. And you know, it’s really interesting. You used the word science, you talked about cognitive learning. There really is a science to that customer journey as they walk down the road to making a decision. And I’d like to talk about that customer deciding journey today. And can we get to the root of that? Where, you know, you started with the term create. So let’s start at the beginning and dig into the customer deciding journey.
Tim: Well, we found is there are four distinct moments of value in the customer journey. And some people call it a buying journey. Old days, they called it the sales process. But we turned that 180 degrees around and said, “What is the customer doing versus what are you doing to the customer?” And the customer is answering questions for themselves. And the first question, the do not pass go, do not collect $200 sort of Monopoly question is the customer’s asking themselves before any decision is made, “Why should I change? Why should I do anything different?” And if we net selling out to anything it’s you’re trying to convince somebody to do something different tomorrow than they’re doing today. And this idea of creating value is you have to create enough value enough sense that they need to change and they need to do something different tomorrow than they were doing today. And it is the first form of value that you must master as a seller is how do you create enough value to create momentum? I like to say, create a buying vision. And the question you’re answering for the customer in their mind is why should I change?
Unconsidered Need and Other Sales Tactics
George: And this why moment is at the very beginning of the journey. You know, if you can’t create that idea of, “I need to make a change,” there’s no hope of any of the rest of the journey. It really is at the antithesis of the buyer coming in. You talked a little bit about, you know, this unconsidered need and that’s something that I get told by salespeople all the time. You know, “Tim’s unconsidered need, it’s amazing. It’s helped, you know, earn more commission than I ever thought possible.” Can we talk a little bit about that? And correct me if I’m wrong, that’s just one tactic to get to that why.
Tim: Yeah, it’s like one core tactic for getting to why change? For a little context, sellers normally like to jump to this idea of why you? You know, why me? You think because somebody has engaged you, a prospect has engaged you, that they’re already making a decision they’re just trying to figure out who to pick. But the problem is 60 to 80% of the time they have not made the decision to change yet. So you have to discipline yourself to say, “I must make sure they want to change,” instead of leaping forward to answer the why you question. Because then you instantly put yourself in a place where 60 to 80% of people go, “Whoa, wait, wait, wait. I’m not really there yet.” And the unconsidered need is this idea that instead of asking customers questions about the pains they know they have, the way you cause them to change is tell them about needs, problems, and missed opportunities they didn’t know they have. The ones they know they have they’re already living with, so there’s no real sense of urgency to change because they’ve figured something out, workarounds, or just kind of, “Maybe this is just the way things are.” It’s until you open their eyes and tell them about a need, a problem, a missed opportunity they didn’t know they had or didn’t appreciate the size, or the speed, of that problem or opportunity that you open their minds up to change. In psychology, persuasion is not possible without uncertainty. And the thing you’re trying to do with the unconsidered need is introduce some uncertainty about the way they’re doing things today.
George: Well, and I think that all buyers are looking for the new thing and it’s new to them. So if you could present something that they haven’t considered, show some case studies, white papers, of how you’ve solved it for other folks, it can be a very, very powerful tool. But as I mentioned when we started into this, it’s only one tactic. What are some other tactics to create that why?
Tim: Well, it’s interesting that you say that they want to talk about the new thing, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve made up their mind to change. They just check out the new thing. So we’re drawn into this idea that they wanna see my new shiny objects. You start leading with that. I like to say that the people who haven’t answered the why change question are actually deniers. They’re interested in the shiny object, but they’re denying that they have a problem that’s big enough for them to change. And so the problem with deniers is if you come in with a case study that only talks about the end of the success, right? “We’ve worked with companies and generated 401% ROI.” The prospect is like, “Yeah interesting, but I don’t know if I even have a problem that’s big enough to take on the risk, and the cost, and all the perceived challenges of change.” So what we say is there’s another tactic beyond the unconsidered need is we call it the story with contrast. People know this better as a before and after story. It turns out people who are deniers are denying they have a problem that’s big enough to cause them to change. And that the thing you have to sell them on first is they have a problem that’s big enough to change. So your proof story, your case studies, have to start with, “Here’s where this company started. Here’s what they started noticing. Here’s what they started feeling. Here’s what they were experiencing. Here’s what their numbers look like.” And would you want is the person who’s listening to start self-identifying or self-persuading like, “That’s me, I recognize that. I’m living like that.” So instead of you telling them, “You suck, you’re doing it wrong.” You actually, through the case study, get them to self-identify and self-persuade that they’re dealing with and existing in the same circumstance. And then they’re ready to go on the journey with you to the proof point, the after, right? So we all know before and after studies, we’ve seen them, and there’s before and after pictures of weight loss, there’s a reason. Our brain needs that to recognize “I’m here and I wanna get there,” in order for me to actually cause them to say, “yes, I need to change.” You literally need that contrast. Your brain craves contrast in order to make a decision to change.
George: You know, in the training moments that I’ve been having over the last few months it’s really interesting because when you present fear of loss, which is a tactic, there’s a certain subset that are nervous about that. “Why would we put that negativity out in front of the prospect? Why would we?” And, you know, this really is this unconsidered need where you show some insights, you show some data points, you show that you understand the monetary value of them not changing, and it makes them a little uncomfortable. Some reps have a real problem with that. How have you overcome this, “Yeah, you’re gonna make your prospect a little uncomfortable;” have you ran across that? I’m sure you have.
Tim: Oh, sure, sure. Nobody wants to be a little dark rain cloud. You know, they all want to be a ray of sunshine. And so, but psychologically speaking, you’re right. People are more motivated to change to avoid loss than they are to go after a possible gain. And so a loss associated with their current approach is more powerful than a gain with a new approach. So you have to just accept psychologically you need to get there. But I always use this phrase, “Make them feel smarter, not stupid when they encounter you.” So I usually say, “You know, we work with 215 companies every year. We look at their presentations and pitches. And what we find at those companies is they tend to sound like this or do that. And then the psychology and the science tells us this.” And what you do is you don’t point a finger at them. You’re engaging them in a way that they’re feeling smarter because they had time with you and not like you made them feel stupid for the choices that they’ve made. It’s a nuance, but it’s really about positioning expertise as opposed to finger-pointing. I hope that makes sense. It’s almost being more of a teacher than it is some sort of like indicter. So it’s make them feel smarter, not feel stupid. It’s we’re all looking at this as something new that we all got our eyes on not something you’ve totally missed because you don’t get it. So I hope that subtlety makes sense.
George: No, it definitely does. It’s interesting when you mentioned earlier, where we’re taking the prospect through the journey and having the discipline to identify the value points. This, I run across this all the time where sales reps, they know how to solve the problem, they know what the prospect’s problems are, and they rush it. And by rushing it through they miss delivering those value propositions where the prospect is, “You know, you’re an expert on this. You’ve solved this problem.” And it’s part of removing the fear of the prospect because you mentioned earlier, if you don’t make them a little uncomfortable then they don’t wanna make the change. What are some tips that you can give, you know, either new sales reps or veteran sales reps that need to be reminded of this, of having that discipline to follow the steps that they know that work?
Tim: Yeah, we all love our stuff and we can’t wait to talk about it. And we wanna race them through the recognition and the grieving period where they have to recognize they can’t stay where they are. And that’s why we like this idea of the story with contrast; you tell a story of someone like them and then you can pause at the beginning and tell them, “This is what they were experiencing, here’s what they were seeing. How does this look in your organization? How are you dealing with this in your organization? Does it seem as severe in your organization?” So when you recognize you have a before and after story, you recognize you have two moves to make, the before and the after. And you can pause and let the before breathe and let them answer questions about it, let them take ownership of it. So the problem is, like I said, with most product-driven organizations and most case studies showing the results of the product at its success, you bypass, like it becomes a quick like somebody mentions a problem and you just zoom. I often refer to the problem as premature elaboration. You know, you can’t wait to get there. And the problem with that is that you’re ready to talk about it, they’re not ready to go there yet. And that’s the thing. You gotta let them marinate in it and answer their own questions after you’ve presented that before scenario and they take ownership of it. Self-persuasion is the most effective form of persuasion. As good as you think you are, and you wanna get to that part where you gonna persuade them, let them persuade themselves. So again, before and after stories allow you to think of it as moves, and you pause after each move, and ask some questions and engage about it and let that take root.
Create Value and Elevate Value: Helping Clients Make the Switch
George: Well, those are some great insights on avoiding this idea of rushing the deal through the journey. We have that creating the why and then we get to your concept of elevating. And this is really the building of the value that is being brought forward. Can we elaborate a little bit on the elevate portion of this customer deciding journey?
Tim: Right, so we talk about create value and then elevate value. Oftentimes, well, every time, the decision comes in two parts. “Emotionally and intuitively I have to believe that I need to leave my status quo, that I need to change.” So you must create enough value for them to emotionally and intuitively disengage from their current approach. But the interesting thing is that the capacity for language and the reason to explain a decision actually lives in your rational/logical brain. So when we talk about elevating value, we literally talk about moving it up the brain and to the rational/logical part of the brain that justifies a decision, validates a decision, and likes to convince themselves and the people around them, that they made a rational decision not an emotional decision. And so when you elevate the value, you package you move from, why change? To what we say is, why now? You put a sort of a business case. You put a little ROI on that. Or you put a little bit of business outcome on that. “Here’s the cost saved, the opportunity capture.” And we talk about something called the three Rs, hard returns, cost, and revenue, strategic returns like competitive advantage and time to market, or soft returns, NPS scores, employee satisfaction. Hard, strategic, and soft returns quantify as best you can and describe what the customer will get as a result in their organization. Because here’s what happens, I make the decision to change emotionally but then I explain it to everybody, I justify it based on some rational/logical outcome. So you need both in making a decision. Why change? Emotional. Why now? Rational. And so elevate value is elevating that to that sort of business and sort of financial outcome that everybody needs to check the box for themselves. And then I always say, “Lie to everybody else about why you made the decision,” because we all just want something to defend that decision with. And it’s funny, here’s the trap people get in, is when you ask a customer what is it gonna take for you to change? They will explain that to you from their logical brain. So you assume you need logical evidence. So that’s the other discipline. The why change must come first and it’s emotional intuitive, but they’re gonna need this evidence because they’re gonna wanna justify it to themselves and to their friends. So it is a one-two punch.
George: Well, I’m glad that you got to that, because, you know, it’s the vignette that you tell your internal self if there’s only one person in the buying decision. So you’re going to bed at night and you’re like, “Okay, this is why I made this decision.” And then if there are more people involved and they’re around the water cooler trying to justify why they spent the money, they have to be able to explain it. It’s like when somebody buys a car, I’ve never had somebody when they buy a car go, “Boy, that was the worst deal ever. I really don’t know how to negotiate. I just paid way too much.” No, they go, “Oh, I got a great deal on that car. I feel really good about it.” You know, you wanna feel good about the buying decision that you’ve made and by having those little vignettes. And so thank you for that. I think that that’s very, very valuable. I like to call it, remove the prospect’s fear. You know, there’s certain pieces of software out there where people will say, “Yeah, okay, we’re gonna decide for this, because nobody’s ever got fired for buying Salesforce, because, you know, it’s the incumbent in the space or something like that.” So how do you get your platform to that point? Where it’s, “No, I’m gonna make this decision. It’s gonna be good for me. And I’ve got that little vignette I can play over and over or tell somebody else about why, you know, why I made the decision.”
Tim: Yeah, you need a story, right? You need to give them a story to tell themselves and tell others. And I’ll just sort of the capper on it is that the part of our brain that’s rational and logical didn’t make the decision to change, but it is the explainer. And I heard somebody once say that like the logical brain wants to think it’s the scientist but it’s really like a radio talk show host. It doesn’t do a lot, but it talks a lot. It explains a lot. So you gotta satisfy it, right? So it is kind of a funny way to think about the two parts of the brain.
George: Well, and thanks for that. I think I have been a radio talk show host.
Tim: Oh, my apologies.
Capture Value: Protecting Your Margin and Justifying Pricing
George: No, it’s okay, it’s what I’m doing right now. So now we come to the capture stage and a pretty important piece. I think we’re getting close to signing a piece of paper or something like that. But give us some insights as to your take on the capture stage of the customer deciding journey.
Tim: Yeah, we chose these words very deliberately, because now at some point, the worry about creating value and elevating value is that you will leak value when you get to the moment of negotiation. And so think of capture value as protecting your margin or justifying your pricing premium. And in many sales cycles, this looks like the negotiation piece. And the question the customer is actually asking themselves is, “Why should I pay what they’re asking?” And nobody thinks they should pay what they’re asking. There’s psychology there, right? That everybody, I don’t care how sophisticated the product or services you sell, needs to think they got a deal. It is just human nature to believe that I won here. We teach a negotiations course in capture value that has no less than 15 different techniques. And so we don’t have time to get into all of them, but I’ll give you one example. People have often heard and been taught this idea that the person who speaks first loses. Because if you put a number out there they might’ve been willing to pay more. The reality is they’re probably not willing to pay more than what you wanted to ask for. That’s just, if you price appropriately, you’re trying to get a little more than maybe, we call it expanding the range of reason. You’re trying to push the envelope on that. And the reality is if you let them answer first like, “Hey, how much are you looking to spend here?” Bam, that number goes down. And now you spend all your time trying to work them up a little bit and get a little bit more. “No, no, can’t quite go there.” And you try to raise that a little bit, what happens? The customer feels like they lost that argument. If you make the first offer and say, “Listen, this is what this costs,” and then you have a plan for how to concede, my point is you will drop that a little bit. But the customer will feel like they won. But there’s actually a delta between their first offer and your first offer that you leave on the table if you let them put the low number in and you try to claw that back, versus you put a high number in and let them take a little, there’s this huge swath in the middle that you left on the table because you’ve been working so hard to claw it back. Here’s why salespeople end up feeling better about clawing it back than giving it away is because psychologically they feel like they won something if they get some, you know, margin back from the customer. And they feel like they lost something if they gave some margin. Hooey, the reality is let the customer feel like they won taking you off your high number, your high target, versus trying to claw it back from the low number they gave you. You have to overcome that psychological thing that you feel like you won or lost and take that money off the table that you would have otherwise given up.
George: Well, and I liken it to you, you know, you go to the doctor and the doctor does the appointment and is about to give you the prescription that you need. And then, you let the patient say, “Yeah, but I want this done.” Like it completely, all the things that you did in the create and the elevate stages if you let the prospect throw the number out there, you know, you’re the expert. You’ve now positioned yourself as the expert. You’ve given all of the proof points. And now you should say, “This in my opinion is what this is worth.” And let them have a little. You know it’s such an interesting nuance because then the prospect feels like they have won.
Tim: Mhmm, and that’s the psychology you want. You don’t want your own psychology to play in here. You want them to feel like they won. And I can guarantee that there’s a lot of margin that you’re leaving on the table if you follow the old adage of the person who speaks first loses. No, the first offer, it’s called the first offer paradox. That’s the science behind it. That in actuality, the first offer is the one who wins. ‘Cause again, if the customer made the first offer they’re gonna win ’cause they low balled it. So yeah, it’s believe in your value when you create it and elevate it. And put a number out there that’s a high target. The science is called anchoring. And then you give them a slight discount, and the psychology there is called justification. Give it to them for a reason. They’ve been a loyal customer, or, you know, they responded within a timeframe, or whatever it is, give them a slightly lower number with a justification, then that doesn’t feel arbitrary either. Like there’s a reason they got it. And not that the reason they got it is you have way too much margin to play with, right? So anchoring and justification in a first offer is how you capture value.
George: Well, we could go on and on. And in fact, we’re gonna go on and on into next week, because we’re gonna bring Mr. Tim Riesterer back for another episode. We have yet to cover the expand portion of the customer deciding journey. But Tim, thank you. We started with create, we got into the elevate, the elevation of the value, and then the capture of that value in getting that first deal closed with that customer. And now we’re going to move to the expansion portion in our next episode, next week, here at the Conquer Local Podcast. Tim, thanks for joining us today, and look forward to more learnings next week.
Tim: Thanks, see you then, George.
George: What a great episode from Tim talking about the create, elevate, and capture stages and creating that pipeline. And then elevating, finding out how it’s going to fit and elevating the value proposition that you deliver. What is the reason that the buyer needs to think about your solution? I’m fascinated by Tim’s capture phase because I’m finding more and more that young sellers really struggle with this. “What is your budget?” “I don’t have a budget.” Or it’s definitely not going to be the budget that your solution that you just worked so hard to present needs in order to have a good commercial relationship. And some interesting skills there around setting the bar at this level and then giving up a couple of items so that your prospect feels like they’ve won. And we want that, it’s a win/win relationship. But if you start at the floor, as Tim mentioned, and he went through it about three different times you can tell it’s important, going up when you’ve got that value that’s been set low is a hard thing to do. So some great lessons there whether you are a new seller or you are an expert, some things to remind you and a great way to look at it, the create stage, the elevate stage, and then where you capture the value stage. We’re gonna do another episode because Tim’s just magical. And we’re gonna get him on the podcast next week where we’re going to talk about the expand stage, and I can’t wait for it. Always entertaining, Tim Riesterer, our guest this week on the Conquer Local Podcast. We would love to hear from you in the community. It is producer Colleen’s pet project. She loves it and she loves getting feedback through the community. Now, I know we’ve been telling you for three years to go to LinkedIn to speak to us, but what we would love for you to do is use the new Conquer Local community. In fact, there’s a really good chance that you’ll hear back from us faster and you also will have more experts involved. Because we have the entire group of experts at our organization involved in the community on a day-to-day basis. No question is out of bounds. We wanna hear from you. So go to the Conquer Local community, get into that forum and start asking questions. That’s where we’re looking for the engagement from our listeners. You can find us on our website at ConquerLocal.com/community. My name is George Leith. Thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local Podcast. I’ll see you when I see you.