Business Development Newsletter #230: Custom Fit, Interpreting problems, Headspace

Sales and marketing Newsletter

Quick notes to help you grow your business in less time with less effort. . . sometime next week.

In this issue:

– Techniques for FIT
– Being Human
– Random Stuff

Techniques for FIT

  • One way to move from abstract ideas to action is to use specific examples. The problem with this tactic is when your prospect doesn’t buy in to your illustration. Instead of using your example, ask them what they’re working on and give an example fitting their specifics.
  • Metrics are great, just assume they’re going to be gamed and will need to change over time to remain effective. It’s the nature of management. Once you’re aware of a thing, you can’t help but work on that thing. Use this power wisely.
  • You know how the difference between off-the-shelf, made-to-measure, and bespoke, is the level of customization? Sometimes a one size fits most solution works, but often you’ll need to “cut this/let-out that” to get results. It’s rare to have 100% customized as the only way to go.
  • Stopping yourself before you take a stand is hard to do, but for most of us it’s accurate to say, “let me think about it,” before declaring a position. Next to stopping yourself, taking time to think through an issue is the next hardest thing.

Being Human – What do you mean?

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
– Captain in “Cool Hand Luke”


Our brains are solution machines. If you’re talking and your co-conversant says, “X keeps happening” your brain jumps into solution mode. “Why is that? What can be done? Have you tried Y?”

In normal conversation, this may not be a problem. Especially if we’re comfortable with the person we’re talking to or have a level of trust present.

In your business development conversations, on the other hand, it can be a problem. When our brains hears what sounds like a problem, it stops listening and starts looking for a solution. “We use Competitor X,” shuts the listening down and starts the brain into solution mode. “Maybe you’re unhappy? Maybe they charge you too much? Maybe they don’t do exactly what we can do for you?”

What the best sales people do sounds simple, but it’s hard to do. As the Good Book says, they seek first to understand. When they hear what sounds like a problem, they fight the urge to go into solution mode and keep listening. “Talk to me about that,” they might say, “why did you bring that up right now?”

In my workshops we talk about Developing the Opportunity and active listening is the featured skill. Is the presence of a competitor a problem? In the opportunity phase it’s hard to say. Knowing that, don’t waste the brain power on solving the problem. Focus your brain on understanding the person in front of you.

Last night, a friend talking about one of her soon-to-be-ex-co-workers said, “I told her where I’m going to work, then she went off on a weird tangent and made all sorts of disturbing assumptions.” The soon-to-be-ex-co-worker was doing what we all do. She jumped into solution mode. The problem was there wasn’t a problem needing to be solved.

Who knows what’s going on in people’s heads? Not me. The only way to find out is to ask questions, and listen. Turn off the solutions, focus on the diagnosis, the understanding. There will be plenty of time for solutions later, if they’re needed at all.

Good stuff.

Random stuff

“Tell me, what color is the sky in your world?” 


It’s another weekend, March 81st as I hear. Mine will include the new pastime of weeding the garden and caring for the new flora while trying to manage the fauna. I have a certain rabbit intent on destroying a tomato crop un-phased by the terrible stench of Liquid Fence, and I’m keeping my eye on the carpenter bee going to town on my pergola. I’m alternately horrified and amazed in both cases.

It will be a pleasant weekend with the only irritant being the constant circling of police helicopters making rounds to manage protests and enforce our latest curfew. I get texts and pictures from family members tsk-tsking elements of the protests/policing  from various parts of the country and I’m taking note. I see what friends and family post to social media and I’m considering the content and sentiment. I’m taking action where I can because it feels like an important time as the pandemic, a devastating economic blow, and increased communication are converging, laying open our societal faults.

These inputs are reinforcing my bias: inside everyone’s head is a world (“cada cabeza es un mundo”), and it’s foolish and/or dangerous to assume you know what’s in there. Another human’s headspace is too vast to be mapped. I find it helpful to keep this in mind when considering my beliefs and actions. Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand, as St. Francis might say.

It’s advice I share with my family. Just this week as a matter of fact. “It’s impossible to know why I can’t get online ordering straight,” I said during a heated moment. “I’m sorry that your Cuban Sandwich turned into a grilled cheese,” I say pointing to one bag, “and your add-on bacon turned into BBQ sauce,” pointing to another.

Then I shrug and point to my head adding, “Remember ‘cada cabeza es un mundo,’ and frankly, you don’t want to know what’s happening in here.”

Peace to you. Be kind to each other. Enjoy the weekend.

(and crank this one up to 11: The Hold Steady: “Stay Positive”)


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