A few months ago, T3 Expo’s Chief Development Officer, Tim Heffernan was named to the Forbes Development Council. The Forbes Business Development Council is an invitation-only community for sales and "biz dev" executives. Last week, the Council posted Tim’s first article titled, Asking What Matters: The Evolutionary Jump from Selling to ‘VVIE’ing for Your Customers’ Attention.
We have included a link to the piece below, as well as the entire post that appeared in Forbes! The piece shares what "VVIE-ing" is and what the four components -- validation, viewpoints, insights and emotions -- are; and how it allows organizations to offer a more complete picture of how to solve a customer’s business problem, and not just talk at a customer.
Congrats to T3 Expo and Tim!
A decade ago, a colleague of mine walked into our shared office space and said, “We need to stop selling solutions in a box and show our customers how what we do, and what we offer, will change their lives. We need to map a customer journey so we can demonstrate where we can best help them with our insights.” I jumped on the opportunity, and we began selling customer experience (CX) services as a way to transform several vertical markets.
Now that CX and insight selling has become the trend, I’ve noticed a shift in what is resonating with customers today. While it is true that customers still want you to bring them insights, there is still something missing to address all of their competing needs.
What is missing? It's the customer’s point of view, listening and asking the right questions. The customer’s insights, applied to the customer’s internal and external business problems, are the most valuable, yet we often ignore them. So, we ask ourselves, “How do we find the opportunity to listen, ask questions and be present in our time-starved world to find out that information and to do it consistently?”
The only answer is that you must make the time.
To get there, you first have to take a step back to validate the old adages of building trust and competence. The core of insight selling is showing deep competence with the customer’s business problem. “Seek first to understand,” wise scholars have said.
The method I've seen resonate most with customers and their customers is building plans that "VVIE" for attention. This method has four components -- validation, viewpoints, insights and emotions (VVIE) -- that allow you to offer a more complete picture of how to solve a customer’s business problem, and not just talk at customers. So what if all your great ideas and creative designs blow people away? If they don’t meet the needs of the customer, they are meaningless and will likely end up in the trash.
The most simplistic example of this strategy is as follows: Think back to the last time you had an ache or pain in your body. What did you do first? What most of us do: ignore it. If it doesn’t go away, we turn to Dr. Google to research (validate) what aliment we may have. As soon as we type the words, Google starts suggesting the next word to type, and the subsequent results that are displayed begin to form our viewpoint. After 5–15 minutes, we move to the insight stage and diagnose ourselves with the worst possible outcome that we can find. And then we ignore it again, and the emotional stage of denial begins. If it persists, we think back to our insights and move past denial and on to fear, anxiety, etc., and finally break down and go to our doctor. If that MD doesn’t validate our viewpoints, insights or emotions about what we found, we will often dismiss the medical diagnosis. Even though the physician may have decades of experience, we don’t want to listen because we have done our research. Does this sound familiar?
That same methodology is what many customers go through prior to making a purchasing decision. So, like the MD, even though you are the expert in the field, if you are not VVIE-ing for their attention and delivering what they need, you are probably not going to service them in the future.
So how do you apply this to your work? Here are the steps:
Validation: The best salespeople do this intrinsically, usually by mirroring body language, repeating key ideas back to the person when presenting their own or even figuring out if they are an auditory, visual or kinesthetic thinker and mirroring that type of language back. This is all good, but frankly, it’s not always enough. You also need to validate the viewpoints, insights and emotions they experienced during their own discovery.
Viewpoints: The questions you ask should come from deep research that you've done into the customer’s business and into the emotional responses you're trying to change into a buying behavior. To ask those questions, it’s important to not only conduct a thorough competitive intelligence deep dive by reading the research reports available about buying, selling and technology in your sector and from market research analysts, but also to take the research a step further and actually apply it.
Insights: You can connect with your customers by applying those viewpoints in the context of the knowledge you have built. Because you have placed yourself in their shoes, you have gone through the same searching that they would have prior to engaging with them. Be sure to reinforce the things that they found through their journey toward becoming an expert to relate to them.
Emotions: Campaigns and pitches that speak to our heartstrings rather than reason are often more memorable and can drive higher conversion. The trick is discovering what emotional triggers move our customers to buy, recommend and, ultimately, advocate. By engaging with a marketing firm that focuses on emotional response to messages, you can find the right words that will trigger the positive emotions you want customers to associate with your brand. You can also implement this model via technology tools such as AI, or by partnering with companies that track in-store or event consumer and attendee behavior.
Applying this to customers’ needs should still be an integrated marketing approach, and you should adjust your marcoms activities to influence how the prospect learns about you -- and then reinforce that in your meetings.
When you ask the right questions, the client will be more likely to say, “Wow, you are so creative. Thank you for not making it about yourselves or even me, but my customers’ customers.”
The next time a prospect gives you that skeptical, disinterested look, remember this: “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you.”