Subtitle: Five keys to Earn Digital Natives’ TrustThis post is #7 in an collaborative eight part series by Brad Szollose and Rob Hirschfeld about how culture shapes technology.
WARNING: These are not universal rules! These are two cultures. What gets high scores for Digital Natives is likely to get you sacked with Digital Immigrants.
How Do Digital Natives DO Business?
You don’t sell! You collaborate with them to help solve their problems. They’ll discredit everything say if you “go all marketing on them” and try to “sell them.”
Here are five ways that you can build a two-way collaborative relationship instead of one-way selling. These tips aren't speculation: Brad has proven these ideas work in real-world business situations. Interested in Digital Native Culture? We recommend reading (more books):
- Brad Szollose: Liquid Leadership (Rob's shameless plug for Brad)
- Jane McGonagal: Reality is Broken
- Danah Boyd: It’s Complicated
- Eric Ries: Lean Startup
- David Weinberger: Too Big To Know
In a selling situation, the sales pitch doesn’t address our client’s needs. It addresses what we want to tell them and what we think they need. It is a one-way conversation. And if someone has a choice between saying “yes” or “no” in a sales meeting, a client can always have the choice to say “no.”
Sharing draws our customers in so we can hear their problems and solve them. We can also get a barometer on what they know versus what they need. When Rob is presenting to a customer, he’s qualifying the customer too. Solutions are not one size fits all and Digital Natives respect you more for admitting this to them.
Digital Native business is about going for a long-term solution-driven approach instead of just positioning a product. If you’ve collaborated with customers and they agree you’ve got a solution for them then it’s much easier to close the sale. And over the long term, it’s a more lucrative way to do business.
Ten years ago, IT departments were the bottleneck to getting products into the market. If customers resisted, it could take years to get them to like something new. Today, Apple introduces new products every six month with a massive adoption rate because Digital Natives don’t wait for permission from an authority. The IT buyer has made that sales cycle much more dynamic because our new buyers are Digital Natives. Where Digital Immigrants stayed entrenched in a process or technology, Digital Natives are more willing to try something unproven. Amazon’s EC2 public cloud presented a huge challenge to the authority of IT departments because developers were simply bypassing internal controls. Digital Natives have been trained to look for out-of-the-box solutions to problems.
Time-to-market has become the critical measure for success.We now have IT end-user buyers who adopt and move faster through the decision process than ever before! We interfere with their decision process if we still treating new buyers as if they can’t keep up and we have to educate them. Today’s Digital Workers are smart, self-starters who more than understand technology; they live it. Their intuitive nature toward technology and the capacity to use it without much effort has become a cultural skill set. Also they can look up, absorb, and comprehend products without much effort. They did their homework before we walked in the door. Digital Natives are impatient. They want to skip over what they know and get to real purpose and collaboration. You add bottlenecks when you force them back into a traditional decision process that avoids risk; instead, they are looking to business partners to help them iterate and accelerate.
How did this apply to the Crowbar project?
Crowbar addresses a generation’s impatience to be up and running in record time. But there is more to it than that: we engage with customers differently too. Our open source collaboration and design flexibility mean that we can dialog with customers and partners to figure out the real wants and needs in record time.
Ask questions at the beginning of a meeting—this becomes a knowledge base “smell test.” Listening to what our clients know and don’t know gets us to the heart and purpose of why we are there. Take notes. Stay open to curve balls, tough questions, and—dare we say it—the client telling us we are off base. You should not be surprised at how much they know.
For open source projects at Dell (Rob's Employeer), customers have often downloaded and installed the product before they have talked to the sales team. Rob has had to stop being surprised when they are better informed about our offerings than our well trained internal teams. Digital Natives love collecting information and getting started independently. This completely violates the normal linear sales process; instead, customers enter more engaged and ready if you can be flexible enough to meet them where they already are.
Aren’t instant messaging, texting, and tweeting attention-stealing distractions?
Don’t confuse IMing, texting, emailing, and tweeting as lack of attention or engagement.
Digital Natives use these “back channels” to speed up knowledge sharing while eliminating the face-to-face meeting inertia of centralized communication.
Of course, sometimes we do check out and stop paying attention.
Time and attention are valuable commodities!
With all the distractions and multi-tasking for speed and connectivity, giving someone undivided attention is about respect, and paying attention is not passive! When we ask questions, it shows that we’re engaged and paying attention. When we compile all the answers from those questions, our intention leads us to solutions. Solving our client’s problems is about getting to the heart of the matter and becomes the driving force behind every action and solution. Don’t be afraid to stray from the agenda—our attention is the agenda.
virtualized work habits because they are more effective.
Our customers are looking for innovative solutions to their problems and may find them in places that we do not expect. It is our job to stay awake and open to solution serendipity. Let’s take this statement out of our vocabulary: “That’s not how we do it.” Let’s try a new approach: “That isn’t traditionally how we would do it, but let us see if it could improve things.”
McDonald’s uses numbers for their combo meals to make sure ordering is predictable and takes no more than 30 seconds. It sounds simple, but changes come from listening to customers’ habits. We need to stop judging and start adapting. Imagine a company that adapts to the needs of its customers?
Sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer pays $100 in cash to any one of his employees who makes a mistake. This mistake is analyzed to figure out if it is worthy of application or to be discarded. He doesn’t pay $100 if they make the same mistake twice. Mistakes are where we can discover breakthrough ideas, products, and methods.
Making these kinds of leaps requires that we first let go of rigid rules and opinions and make it OK to make a few mistakes … as long as we look at them through a lens of possibility. Digital Natives have spent 10,000 hours playing learning to make mistakes, take risks, and reach mastery.
See you Next Wednesday...
Our point of view: About the authors
Rob Hirschfeld and Brad Szollose are both proud technology geeks, but they’re geeks from different generations who enjoy each other’s perspective on this brave new world.
Rob is a first-generation Digital Native. He grew up in Baltimore reprogramming anything with a keyboard—from a Casio VL-Tone and beyond. In 2000, he learned about server virtualization and never looked back.
In 2008, he realized his teen ambition to convert a gas car to run electric (a.k.a. RAVolt.com). Today, from his Dell offices and local coffee shops, he creates highly disruptive open source cloud technologies for Dell's customers.
Brad is a Cusp Baby Boomer who grew up watching the original Star Trek series, secretly wishing he would be commanding a Constitution Class Starship in the not-too-distant future.
Since that would take a while, Brad became a technology-driven creative director who cofounded one of the very first Internet development agencies during the dot-com boom. As a Web pioneer, Brad was forced to invent a new management model that engaged the first wave of Digital Workers.
Today, Brad helps organizations like Dell close the digital divide by understanding it as a cultural divide created by new tech-savvy workers ... and customers.
Beyond the fun of understanding each other better, we are collaborating on this white paper for different reasons.
- Brad is fostering liquid leaders who have the vision to span cultures and to close the gap between cultures.
- Rob is building communities with the vision to use cloud products that fit the Digital Native culture.