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Developing confidence to lead insight-driven customer conversations

When working with a team recently, I asked the group to rate on a 1-5 scale how confident they are discussing market trends with their customers. I saw a couple of 4s, and a lot of 1s & 2s, which did not surprise me. We often find that smart sales and account managers who live and breathe their own and their customer's markets every day are still intimidated by leading a conversation here. Sometimes there is a knowledge gap, but more often than not it's a confidence gap.

As one account manager we worked with summarized so simply, "What I have realized now is that we are the experts".
Market data example

Sometimes economic and market trends can leave us feeling like insecure freshmen sweating through Econ 101. But here's the bottom line: most of us know WAY more than we give ourselves credit for in this area. So our job is to get more comfortable finding information and using what we know to add value to our client conversations.

Could you or your team do a little better here? Try this simple, yet powerful approach.

Weekly Market Research Rotation

James Clear taught me about the power of habit stacking, and this plays right into that concept (and all the things we know sustained development entails). Most of the leaders we work with also don't have hours of extra time that they can spend developing their team, so let's take a meeting or other connection point you already have - a weekly team meeting for example, and add a market insights dimension to it. 

  1. Introduce the concept by sharing an example of how being comfortable speaking to the market trends impacted your relationship or results with a customer. Then start a discussion about resources you use to keep up on trends (Google Alerts, Freightwaves, JOC, etc). Ask the team what they use and encourage everyone to write down a new resource or two.

  2. Provide the framework for development: tell the team how it will work. If you meet weekly, assign 1 person a week to delve into market research related to logistics or your customers' industries. Task them with discovering a new piece of information and sharing it with the group.

  3. Coach in the moment: When they present their findings, inquire about the information source and challenge them to derive insightful implications from the facts they uncovered. Encourage team members to connect the dots between market trends and your business. Taking a piece of data, and adding meaning to it to create insights. For example, anticipating a significant improvement in the housing market in Q3/Q4 could signal a surge in demand for flatbed services, leading to increased FTL needs for furniture manufacturers in late '24 or early '25. Initially, it may require guidance to draw meaningful insights, but with practice, the skill will sharpen rapidly.

  4. Support and encourage: Recognize and celebrate the efforts of team members as they embrace this challenging task. Positive reinforcement fosters a supportive environment where individuals feel encouraged to contribute and grow. Avoid overly critiquing the first attempts; instead, emphasize the value of the effort and the knowledge gained to instill confidence and motivation.

If you meet less frequently, adjust this approach to having more than 1 person share each time.

Watch for impact

Before you begin, commit yourself to sustain this for some time - a quarter, 6 months, whatever feels reasonable. Employees get frustrated and stop following through when it feels like development is a "flavor of the week". 

If you stick with it, you'll quickly notice an improvement in powerful ways:

  • Your team should be paying attention to market trends more.

  • Your team will become more confident speaking to the market.

  • Your team should be better equipped to add MEANING to the data and turn information into insights.

  • Ultimately, by increasing their confidence in doing this with their team, they should be more comfortable talking to their customers and prospects as well. Watch for this and encourage it!

Try this approach out and let us know if it's helpful. If you need more, we've got you there, too. Reach out for a free development strategy consultation.

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