SREDIM and Selling: What's the Connection?
Like most people in the field of selling, I am trained in another specialization. From 1994 to 1996 I took 10 and 11 courses a term, double the maximum recommended university courseload, in the BCIT Operations Management program. 50 people began this course, and 30 graduated: it had a 40% failure rate. This program taught me how to think and how to work.
Operations Management is the "glue" that holds business together. It's "How are we gonna do this?" It's "Is there a better way to do this?" And it's even "Should we be doing this?" Industrial Engineering skills are the core of Operations Management. You can get away without the computer, accounting, human resources, production and inventory management and other skills taught in the program, but that IE toolkit is one huge problem-solving powerhouse.
When I told my grandfather I was going to be an Industrial Engineer, I remember him responding, "What's that, a garbageman?" Good for a laugh. No, an Industrial Engineer studies process. Every step of how we accomplish the things we do in business. How does an invoice get processed? How does a product get put together? What steps are involved in choosing a new supplier?
In startups, these processes are typically undocumented and totally personal. Depending on the individual performing the task, the steps can vary wildly. But as an operation grows, it's going to need consistency. Repetition. People doing things in pretty much the same way. Why? "To manage we must measure." This is an Operations Management maxim. If everyone is doing the same task in a hundred different ways, how can we measure and manage it? How can we improve it?
The great danger, of course, is fossilization. When a business bloats to the state and age of, "We've always done it that way," its days are numbered.
And that is where Operations Management and Industrial Engineering skills come in. Where the overlap with selling exists.
SREDIM and Selling: Where the Overlap Is
Selling can be about agitation. Waking a prospect up to the fact that things could be different. That they don't have to live with the pain they may have just realized they are in.
Selling can be about meeting a need. Matching a solution you have with the problem your prospect knows they have and came to you to fix.
Here's where I see salespeople failing their customers: just because they have a solution, they are trying to push that solution onto every prospect. Simply because they offer SEO services, they assume every business needs SEO.
What if this is not the case?
What if the customer would be better served by another solution?
If you don't care, I say you're an unethical seller. To be ethical in sales, you must always have your customer's best interests in mind. If you don't, you are just another product-pusher. And the world is full of those. They are the people who have made it tough for the rest of us. They have been perpetuating that negative stereotype into the public mind.
Of course you and I want sales. But we want Stark Raving Ecstatic Sales--sales where the customer was so impressively helped and even transformed by our efforts that they take it on as their duty to broadcast our awesomeness to the world.
Not people who were sort of, kind of, maybe a little bit helped by our solution. Who aren't sure if we made a difference. Who wonder whether we were just pushing a product or service on them with the hype of the moment.
So how do we make sure our solution is what's best for the customer?
SREDIM and Selling: Transforming Your Sales Relationships and Results
As Mahan Khasla would say, and has said in his great book on selling, Let's Get Real Or Let's Not Play:
"Move Off The Solution."
Forget about your needs right now, as you begin the buying conversation.
Find out what's really going on in your prospect's world.
SREDIM, amusedly pronounced "Shred-em" (what we do to problems with it), is a problem-solving methodology. Each letter stands for an action in the process.
We begin with Select.
Select is about determining needs and prioritizing them. If a prospect won't let you into their world, you don't talk to them. It's a waste of time. But if they will share with you what's really going on, now you can start seeing symptoms of problems. Note carefully that the symptoms are NOT the problems themselves. Many symptoms can be caused by a single root problem.
Gather information. Don't accept hearsay; it's often inaccurate. Employees will lie to protect themselves. See what's truly going on, not just what your prospect or their staff tell you.
Be dispassionate. We don't know anything yet: whether this prospect is a fit with us or not. What does the data show you?
When you believe you have identified the root cause of the most pressing problem, now you are in a position to ethically proceed in the sales process. Not before.
Why not before? Let's say you're a web designer. If you assume the solution to every problem is a redesigned website, you are going to be the guy who has a hammer and thinks everything is a nail. That's silly, of course; but then why are you behaving that way? The prospect's business model may be flawed. Their copy may be terrible. They may be in front of the wrong market. And in these cases, redesigning their website won't result in any improvement. I would call that a scam. Wouldn't you?
This is why it is good to have more than one solution at your beck and call. You never know what combination you may need to bring out of your toolbox.
The next step is Record.
Having determined where we can get the biggest bang for our customer's buck, we zoom in on that area of the business. We gather data specifically about that process. We use tools like flowcharting and Ishikawa diagrams. We nail down that Present Method: how they are doing things now.
Once we're comfortable that we understand the customer's Present Method, we Examine it and the data for direction of a potential solution.
We can see if Pareto's Law (the 80/20 Rule) applies. We can check if any outliers appear in the data that perhaps should be removed, or looked into more deeply.
After we have an idea of the key problem and how we might, in general, fix it, we want to Develop alternative solutions.
Being creative at this stage is invaluable, and there are books on how to stimulate this kind of creativity. For instance, how would a washing machine apply to solving the problem? And how a venetian blind works? Again, be dispassionate. Don't get married to any one solution.
You want five, six or more alternative solutions. Each will have plusses and minuses. We're going to put these into a weighted decision matrix or criteria of evaluation to find out which is best.
And now we can Install that best solution.
Note that only now are we able to say a website, or SEO, or sales training or whatever should be applied. We're far, far into the process here. This is when you train staff on the new process, implement new programs, change the culture if necessary.
Finally, we must Maintain this new process.
Staff may backslide. They may revert to the old way of doing things. They may even discover an improvement to your new system! Document everything and revisit it regularly. Ensure everything is remaining on track...and, most importantly, getting the results promised! If not, it's back to Select.
SREDIM in selling is an invaluable tool and I've been using it for 20 years. It has helped me with developing my own optimized sales process, which is an approach nobody else has used to my knowledge.
And yes, you get paid for doing this analysis, conducting SREDIM and selling. Use the Monkey's Paw if you have to.
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