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The Path to Understanding 

“Seek to Understand Before Being Understood” – Stephen Covey (Mentor)


Are you taking the time to understand and align with your clients before you make your sales pitch? After my last post on the Five Steps for Building Trust, I noticed something that happens all too often in the world of sales and took this opportunity to open up a conversation with you all around the importance of Understanding. Without this crucial step, Trust cannot be built. Many of the responses I received were well thought out and methodical. I could tell these individuals took the time to truly align with what I was saying, which resonated with me and captured my attention. Nevertheless, there were several inquiries where I didn’t spend longer than 2 seconds on, because immediately I could tell it was someone taking the opportunity to type a generic “I think you could really benefit from my….” message, without even taking a minute to understand me first. Some even tried to sell me coaching! So what do I mean by this? Let’s dive deeper into it and use it as the framework for discussing the importance of Understanding. 


Understanding is about adopting the simple concept of: “Let me understand YOU – your needs and where you’re coming from first – BEFORE I bring something to the table”. That simple, folks. 


Before you can get to your desired results, you must start with who you’re serving, and then understanding their desired outcome. In order to grasp this concept on a deeper level, I would like to introduce The Communication Hierarchy Model. I’ve been teaching this model to the top executives I’ve coached over the past 20 years and the feedback I’ve received has been incredible. 


The Communication Hierarchy has 5 fundamental steps, each one crucial to moving up the hierarchy model, which ends at Results. Today, we are going to focus on the first 3, which is where you get to Understanding. From there, the strategy and your results will follow. However, the results will be in direct proportion to how you invest – or better said – are vested in the first 3 key tiers. Let’s dive in.


At the base, there’s Certainty, and this is where it starts. As a professional, this is your job to give. You want the person sitting across from you to feel they’re valued and that you recognize that; providing emotional certainty through your confidence, tonality, words, and energy. A client wants to feel certain that you understand their needs and that you have the solution to their problem. From a sales perspective, you make assumptions about a prospective client based on deductive reasoning. While I might have a level of understanding about what a client needs from me, I want to be respectful. How I ask questions and the intentions behind those questions will help me develop an understanding of where they’re coming from. 


Next, you hit them with Significance. This is where most salespeople falter in their pitch because they skip right past it, and this step is key to building a genuine connection. At significance, you tell the person the exact reasons why they’re important and valued, making them feel special – because they are (you wouldn’t be in front of them if they weren’t). This is your opportunity to be vulnerable and show them exactly how they are going to be served and set up to win. This is key. It’s about them, not you, and it is crucial that you show them exactly how they are going to win based on what you bring to the table. Many salespeople make the mistake of coming in with all their bravado, like they’re the hero sent to save the client. They leave their customer feeling unimportant, which immediately kills rapport. Avoid losing their interest by staying here a minute, and if done right, I assure you, connection will follow. 


Once you’ve aligned with your client and they are certain you are as equally vested in their desired outcomes, you naturally get to Connection, or partnership – where Understanding starts. Connection says “Let’s be a team!”, and where you get to truly identify the reasons why it is essential for everyone to be on the same page. Here, you lead with a message of “Together, we can create the impact we’re all searching for”, and is all about finding the win-win-win sweet spot. This step will come easy if the first two are executed authentically. This is also where your new ‘team’ gets to trust you! Because you sought to understand them first. 


See how that works, folks?

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