Updated: Sep 9
When Abraham was asked to take Isaac to be sacrificed, God told him to take his son, his only son, whom he loved, Isaac. Scholars have discussed in length the reason behind the need to ask Abraham in 4 different ways. They said that after God told Abraham to take his son, Abraham replied with….hang on, I have two sons – Isaac and Ishmael. Then God said, OK, take your only son and Abraham responded with….erm….Isaac is my only son with Sara and Ishmael is my only son with Hagar so who do you mean? God goes on to say…well…the one you loved, knowing very well the relationship Abraham has for Isaac. And Abraham continues..."but boss, I love them both". So, God sighs, makes sure there is no doubt and says…ISAAC. Take Isaac.
Studies show that to get to the real issue, the actual pain point, you need to ask the same type of question about 4 times. Only after a few times asking, you will then get your customer, your colleague, your counterpart to explain the actual essence of the issue and only then you will be able to offer the right and relevant solution.
Q1: “What is the main problem you are trying to solve?”
A1: “Our implementation process takes too long”
Q2: “What is the impact of this process being so long?”
A2: “Our clients are complaining”
Q3: “Interesting. I’m guessing your support team is overloaded?”
A3: “Our support team is great actually. No issues there. I’m just spending a lot of time with clients on the phone.”
Q4: “And you don’t like speaking with your clients?”
A4: “I actually do, it’s these salespeople who complain because it takes over 6 months until they get their commission and that’s killing me.”
We need to ask a few times mainly so there is no doubt. No doubt about the real issue, otherwise we will not be able to offer the appropriate solution.
“ When there is doubt....there is no doubt"
The other day I got a call from Sara (not her real name) at one of the organizations I am working with asking for my advice. Sara is VP of Professional Services at a multi-million-dollar software company. She recently had a post implementation meeting with one of her new clients who shared with her their dismay about how long the implementation took. After researching a bit more, Sara could not find anything particularly wrong or different with the way they implemented THIS client. I asked her if I could look into their implementation plan/template and speak with some of her implementation managers.
Following interviews with a few of her implementation managers and looking into the current plan I noticed something quite distinct. In almost all the projects, there was very little time between the kick-off call and the first phase of the actual implementation of the product. As if everyone was rushed to get this project going. And in almost all of the projects, there was a delay in phase 2 of the implementation.
We sat down Sara and I and I asked her…
Me: “Did your implementation team take time with the client before actually launching the project to make sure there is no doubt (!!) what this group of people were expecting in the implementation process?”
Sara: “What do you mean? It was defined during the sales process?” Me: “I understand, but did the salespeople make sure there is no doubt in their implementation team’s mind about what they sold?” Sara: “Hold on Alon, do you mean the sales team confirming there is no doubt with the implementation team or the implementation team confirming no doubts with the client?”
After interviewing Sara’s team, it seems they did not take the time to really speak with the customer and understand their needs BEFORE rolling the project out. They did not take the time to see the solution from the customer’s stand point but rather, went along with the document they got from the sales team. They didn’t stop to understand in the client’s language, what the expectations are. And they didn’t ask 4 times so there is no doubt.
I know what you’re thinking – isn’t this the job of the sales team? To make sure all the customer’s needs are addressed.
So, let me ask you – how many times have you had the salesperson deeply involved in the implementation? Or how many times have you had your Implementation Manager, Customer Success Manager, Account Manager deeply involved in the sales process? And more importantly, how often is it that the people, the actual humans, who are now in implementation mode, are seeing this for the first time?? How often??? That’s right – all the time!
Here is breaking it down:
The sales team sold a solution they understood during the sales process as defined by the buyer.
The deal was signed and was handed of to the implementation team who has not been part of the sales process and are now communicating with the IT department on the client’s side who also, hasn’t been an integral part of the sales process. Both teams sat down with the respected seller/buyer the kick-off call it is pretty much the first time they communicate with one another.
Both teams ASSUME the other team sees the same solution and hence, none of them is really thinking about asking again. They both want to get going, to follow the timeline, hit their goals and Phase 1 is on its way. But then, as they start rolling out, they realize that throughout the last three calls, when they used the term Portal it meant one thing but the customer uses Portal differently in their world.
As Phase 2 is about to get going and doubt starts creeping up, someone decides to dare and ask. Ask the other team “just to make sure we are looking at the same thing, when you say Portal do you mean….?”
At this stage, and unfortunately, many of you reading this now are probably nodding through a mix of acknowledgement and embarrassment, at this stage, the project gets delayed and both teams go back to the drawing board.
Regrettably, this dynamic exists with Client Success Managers throughout their relationships with their clients, Account Managers in their internal relationships with their Sales Managers, small business owners and their customers and more. No need for an actual technology implementation as a relationship representative, it is there, the relationship, just be aware of your clients’ needs.
Here are a few tips from under the Emotional Relevance™ umbrella when it comes to avoiding mishaps and delays with your clients:
Make sure you stop every now and then during the relationship and ask. Try to tie it to key milestones of the relationship and if there aren’t any, simply make sure you stop and look.
Take the time to explain your point of view as well. Sometimes when you reveal your point of view the client will be thrilled to see there is another angle they haven’t thought about.
Doesn’t matter who shows who, make sure it is very clear to everyone involved that there is no doubt which solution you are putting together. Go through it as many times as needed until everyone sees the same solution. At least 4 times…make sure there is no doubt.
Over your relationship with your clients, through building trust, through Emotional Anchors and through getting personal, make sure there is no doubt. Do not assume what you see in your mind is what they see as well.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to Isaac if his dad didn’t know he had to ask 4 times and make sure….there is no doubt.