A few weeks ago, my client's fractional CMO and I discussed the fundamental pillars of the new value proposition. I fundamentally disagreed with how he positioned it, and before I could stop myself, I said so. This has been my client for almost seven years, and I feel part of their team, so I am passionate about their success.
Maybe it is because of my German heritage, but my feedback is always honest and comes from a place of truth and love. He belly laughed and then said: "I love working with people like you. Your BS monitor is off the charts, and you aren't afraid to speak up."
That same week, we discussed a concept called Radical Candor® by Kim Scott in our They Ask, You Answer Certified Coaching Cohort, and I realized that what I am doing is exactly that.
Radical Candor® isn't only a fantastic tool to become a better communicator, coach, or manager, it is a fundamental mindset change that allows you to become a better salesperson. In this blog post, I will briefly explain the fundamentals of the framework around Radical Candor®, before diving into how you can apply it in sales conversations to radically improve sales outcomes as you build trust with your prospects.
What Is Radical Candor?
In her book Radical Candor, author Kim Scott examines the importance of combining personal care with direct challenges in the workplace. Through personal stories, research, and case studies, Scott explains how creating a culture of caring while being direct can help teams overcome difficult conversations and be more productive.
Scott draws on her experience as a manager at Google and Apple to explain how open communication should take priority over traditional hierarchical structures. She believes that if you want to achieve success without alienating your team members, then you have to be willing to give feedback in an honest but respectful manner. In doing so, you foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and taking risks.
Scott offers a simple 2x2-matrix divided by two axes: the x-axis represents your "Willingness to piss people off" and spans from Directly Challenging (on the right) to Silence (on the left), while the y-axis represents "How much you give a damn" and spans from Personally Caring on the top to Rage on the bottom. This results in the following four quadrants:
- [Upper Right] Radical Candor (RC): This quadrant shows that we care highly while still providing honest feedback or speaking up. It is the difference between being kind and nice. Always try to be in this quadrant.
- [Lower Right] Obnoxious Aggression (OA): Here, we don't care anymore because we are angry, frustrated, or enraged, but we still challenge the other person directly. This still gets the work done, but you come across as an arrogant *bleep*. If you communicate as a manager this way, people fear you rather than respect you.
- [Lower Left] Manipulative Insincerity (MI): You step on others or bring others down to get ahead. This quadrant is generally reserved for passive-aggressive, back-stabbing people who only care about themselves. Stay as far away from this area as you can!
- [Upper Left] Ruinous Empathy (RE): In the last quadrant, you care very much, but you remain silent because you don't feel comfortable or able to speak up. You feel so much empathy and don't want to hurt anyone's feelings that you would rather watch someone make a mistake than say something. Most people are the most comfortable in this space, but staying here isn't productive or helpful.
It is important to note that this framework is NOT a personality test but a communication framework. As we move through some or all of these quadrants throughout the day as we communicate in different situations, Radical Candor provides us with a compass to guide conversations to good, morally acceptable, and effective communication. To do the right thing. To come from a place of truth and love.
If you are not sure, remember: Radical Candor should always be measured not at the speaking person's mouth but at the listening person's ear. Are they not listening to you? Time to challenge them more directly. Are they feeling you don't care? Move towards empathy.
How Radical Candor Changes Sales Conversations & Therefore Sales Outcomes
The word "salesperson" doesn't inspire trust in most people. However, trust is the single most important emotion someone needs to feel to exchange their money for offered services or products. Today's buyers have a highly fine-tuned BS monitor that instantly detects high-pressure sales tactics, smoke and mirror set-ups, and other persuasive tactics designed to close a deal fast, whether this person is a good fit or not.
The emphasis of most sales conversations is on persuading the person to buy something rather than on building relationships by providing them with helpful, honest, and transparent information that allows them to make the right choice for themselves.
As a salesperson, we sometimes overpromise or discount heavily to close the deal (Ruinously Empathetic), become defensive or condescending (Obnoxious Aggression), or start bashing competitors or coworkers (Manipulative Insincerity). But the best salespeople find the right balance between personally caring and directly challenging (Radical Candor).
By using Radical Candor, you will more likely:
- Be completely honest and transparent with your counterpart,
- Do what is right and feel good about sales outcomes, and
- Build human relationships founded on trust.
As a result, you will drastically accelerate sales cycles as you eliminate bad fits early on and focus on good fits only, increasing your close rates and customer lifetime value. Below, I will explain how this works using a few specific examples:
Radical Candor® Allows You To Say "No"
Most salespeople say "Yes" to as many things as possible. It makes them feel safe because they are scared of turning a potential business opportunity away. But if we truly come from a place of truth and love, we want our clients not only to succeed but to have the potential to become our best case study. Not everyone will be a good fit for what you offer, and Radical Candor® allows you to tell your prospects that.
For example, while the They Ask, You Answer Mastery program can be transformative for some businesses, others will fail. If we see red flags while talking to potential coaching clients, we give them honest feedback on why we believe this program isn't for them. Most people are taken aback as they expect salespeople to pitch aggressively. As a result, they trust you more.
Interestingly, this often sparks something extraordinary: the prospect wants to know what they have to do to get to the point where they would be a good fit. Again, this should never be used as a cheap, reverse-psychology trick but always as honest, unbiased advice. Remember: a bad-fit prospect makes an ill client! It is better to turn a bad fit away.
Radical Candor® Builds Trust & Long-Term Relationships
Prospects can tell if a salesperson is desperate to close a deal (e.g., to meet an end-of-the-year quota). We tend to use more high-pressure language if we are trying hard to close a deal, and we often discount more or make other concessions. It smells of desperation. As a buyer, this makes me trust the salesperson less because I know they have something to gain by selling something to me, and I fear, they will push it on me whether this is the right choice for me or not.
When being radically candid, the salesperson shows the prospect that they care and they want them to make the right choice (which might mean that you won't close the deal). They offer expert advice to the best of their ability in an honest, transparent, and unbiased manner, allowing the prospect to self-select. This builds trust and often is the beginning of a long-term relationship leading to mutually beneficial results.
Radical Candor® Will Accelerate Your Sales Process
How often do you have to backtrack in a sales process, for example, when you send out a proposal and then follow up multiple times only to be ghosted? Or you learn after multiple conversations that other stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process that now have to be brought on board as well? Not only is this frustrating, but it drastically diminishes your chances of success.
By having an attitude of Radical Candor®, you are more likely to get answers to the difficult questions much sooner in the sales process, eliminate bad fits early on, and therefore focus on the good fit prospects. You also give yourself permission to assign homework before the next meeting and will reschedule the meeting if the prospect hasn't bothered to complete the assignment.
These are just a few examples to illustrate how Radical Candor® can completely transform your sales process, making it faster and more effective.
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