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Having uncomfortable conversations

One of our leaders sent out a great TED talk to review this past week.  Adam Grants – “Are you a giver or a taker” and it made me think of this story. 

I remember an all hands sales call we held many years ago where two star sales reps (now senior sales leaders) were asked about the difference in impact between being a generous and agreeable account executive and doing everything for your customer vs. being a difficult to work with (challenging AE) that perhaps caused some friction in the relationship. 

They both shared feedback from their customers who said (paraphrasing) “We’ve had easier AE’s to work with in the past.  They said yes to everything and it was easy for me to get my job done. However, our implementation didn’t improve much and the Salesforce impact in our business was average. When I first met my new AE I found it difficult to work with them.  They didn’t say yes to much and in fact said no a lot.  They asked me so many questions and every time I asked for something, they asked for something in return.  Over time I realized they were very curious individuals and were looking at our business in a different way.  For the better of our company they asked for patience while they did deeper discovery, talked to a lot of different people and brought new and innovative ideas to the table. In the end, they and Salesforce made a big impact to our business. There was definitely some friction along the way and we didn’t always agree, but I did feel they had our company’s best interest at heart.”

These two signed some of our company’s biggest and most game changing deals as sales reps and leaders.  I got to know one of the reps over the years and he’s definitely a giver, in all the right ways.  I didn’t know the other as well, but everyone loved working for him.

I share that to say, sales has a tough balance trying to teach sales reps to be givers for the team and not get run over by their customers.  Growing to gain the courage to have tough conversations with your customers while having their best interest at heart can be challenging.  

I know I learned I this one the hard way over and over in my sales career.  If I could offer one piece of advice on this subject:

Get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.  The tougher they are, the more impact you will have and the more you will succeed.

Grab 12 minutes and take in his TED Talk.

Adam Grant – Are you a giver or a taker


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