On this week’s episode of Conversational Selling, our special guest is Tonya Bjurstrom, Founder of Dirby Solutions. Tonya leverages her impressive customer experience skill set to help companies gain valuable insight from their customers and better identify untapped opportunities for growth. Customer retention is so important and Tonya shares how to get the most out of it for our businesses.

Most companies treat their customers well, many have developed great relationships with them, but few really tap into their customers as an avenue of growth or means to find solutions to their business challenges. Tonya takes listeners through the following steps to begin fully utilizing customer value:

  • Identifying key desired insights
  • Creating space where the customer is comfortable sharing
  • Phrasing questions to elicit more feedback
  • And more

By staying curious about your customers, asking the right questions in the right way, and allowing them to guide the decision-making process, you’ll maintain their loyalty, increase revenue, and grow your business. It always starts with the human conversation. Listen now!

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to the Conversational Selling Podcast with Nancy Calabrese.

Nancy Calabrese: Hello, everyone, it’s Nancy Calabrese. And yes, it is time for Conversational Selling. The podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today. And it always starts with the human conversation. Joining us today is Tonya Bjurstrom. She is the Founder of Dirby Solutions, the voice of the customer. Her company builds and implements strategies and programs to get over that get other b2b companies closer to their customers by uncovering new insight. This insight generates new opportunities that increase customer retention, so important. And of course, customer revenue. 

Her clients leverage her skills as a fractional CXO to improve the experience of customers. Tonya’s sweet spot is her ability to grow from an existing customer base. She knows how to ask the right questions in the right way, and understands how to apply the feedback. She creates a nurturing experience that generates valuable insight, and identifies untapped opportunities. So everyone, all my listeners, we all know that customer retention is such a hot topic in today’s world, and it costs so much more to replace a customer than to retain an existing customer. So I am, and I’m sure you are really anxious to learn some of your techniques. Tonya, welcome to the show. 

Tonya: Thank you, Nancy. It’s always great to speak to you whether it’s in an interview or you know, just on the phone, but I love the opportunity to be on your podcast because even just the name Conversational Selling and that is that is so my style. That is so what I really built Derby on is being able to create just really easy conversations with customers, you know, that’s how you’re able to uncover the deepest insights. So, thanks for having me. 

Nancy: So I’m gonna high five you in the air. Yeah, yeah, there we go. Virtual high five. Yeah. Okay. I also love the name, you chose voice of the customer, you know, I’m thinking of voice the show on TV, right? It’s all about a sound voice. And you’ve had such a successful career, what drove you to specialize in VOC, you’re the voice of the customer?

Tonya: You know, when I launched Derby, it really was more as a generalized sales consulting practice. I was working primarily with tech companies, who were having a variety of different challenges with their sales efforts. And which, with each of these companies, when I started the engagement, you know, my first step, and you know, looking at the sales or marketing or customer experience issues a customer is having, my first step is talking to their customers, because who better will be able to identify, you know, why? Why is the product being purchased? What points in the sales process, were really key for them making a decision to work with this particular company? What kind of an experience are they having, it’s really the customers that have the deepest insights and those topics. 

And this, this idea was was new to many of the companies I was working with. They treated their customers very well, they had great relationships with their customers, but they weren’t tapping into their customers as a means of growth. And so that was where I decided to really focus the efforts of Derby on to the voice of the customer and using it as a growth strategy. Not only as a strategy to grow in revenue for organizations, but as a strategy to grow overall. To provide a better experience. right. To you know, really even it can even deep into the happiness of their employees if you have better engagement with customers. So that’s really where where the idea came. 

Nancy: It really resonates with all of us. And you know you also write and I love this to curiosity killed the cat or so the saying goes, thankfully, I am not a cat. Do you want to expand on that? It was very catchy when I read it.

Tonya: You know, I think that’s that’s one of the the natural tendencies that I have that has made me successful in this particular area of business is I am, I’m just naturally a very curious person. And I have always asked a lot of questions. And so that serves that serves me very well in working with companies who, who need to explore the types of questions that they’re asking not only their customers, but themselves. You know, there’s an expression that I absolutely love, which is when you believe you know, the answer, you fail to ask the right question. 

Nancy: You beat me to it. Expand on that, ok.

Tonya: Sure, go right ahead. 

Nancy: No, go finish your sentence. I was just looking at. You just answered my next question. But good.

Tonya: Yeah. I mean, you know, that is just, I think it’s, it’s human nature. Right. Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s human nature for assumption and bias to impact how we seek out information, how we make decisions. And it’s really easy to rather than ask questions that are truly going to uncover new insight, to ask questions that are going to justify your assumptions. Are going to justify past decisions. And, you know, there’s no malice in this. It’s many, many times. It’s it’s subconscious, right. And so being, you know, being able to have a fresh perspective on a situation, and be able to have whoever is providing that perspective, ask the question, then, is a really move, removing that chance, assumption or bias to jump in and dictate what kind of insight you uncover. 

Nancy: Yeah, and, you know, that’s a good segue into what makes you unique in your company. And you start off always, you know, every time I’ve spoken to was asking the right questions in the right way. Talk more about that. You know, I think we’d all want to know, what are the right questions? How do you ask them? 

Tonya: Sure. So, you know, if, if you look at a discussion between two people, sometimes, and I’m sure, Nancy, you’ve had this experience, and others who are listening, have had this experience where when you allow that awkward silence? Some people do better with than others, right? But as you become skilled as an interviewer as you are, you know, that that awkward silence, silence can often be where the greatest insights are born. Where you’re giving somebody an opportunity to really, to really sit in a question, and really think about what it is that they have to say. And so that is, that is one very specific thing that I think is important, if you’re going to be asking questions of somebody, allowing that awkward silence is one of the pieces of asking them in the right way. 

You know, and then the other side of it is creating a space that feels very comfortable. That truly feels like you know, a conversation over coffee. That’s how you’re going to be able to get the best insight, if somebody feels that level of comfort, and openness in sharing their feedback. And then you get into some specifics, right, you get into specifics of how you phrase questions, so that you’re making sure those questions are phrased in a way that are allowing for open feedback, right, that ask a, you know, open ended, not a closed ended question, right need to do that. But you also need to phrase it in a way where you’re, you’re able to pull the type of insights that you’re looking for, without directing where that customer is going to go. So, you know, providing some guidance within the question to keep things on topic, but not not directing where that customer ends up. So, again, going back to that assumption and bias piece is right, using your phrasing of a question to do that. 

Nancy: And I’m guessing and I could be wrong, that the questions will change from customer to customer. Is that a fair statement?

Tonya: Yeah, it depends. It depends on how somebody is approaching a program, right? You know, for Voice of the Customer programs, there’s, there’s a lot of different ways that you can do it. In my approach. You know, I use questions as a guide. So I establish what we call a KDI Key Desired insights with my clients. And that’s where we’re like, Okay, so we’re going into this program, what is the insight? We aren’t we first are uncovering what insight my clients need. So somebody’s going into a voice of the customer program, they really need to go into it with some intention, you know, for this particular piece, what what do we really want to understand from our customers? 

What areas are we having the most challenges in right now within our business, that we believe our customers could provide some insight to help us on? Or, you know, what are our primary concerns with the customer experience? Or, you know, how, how should we move forward with our product roadmap? Are there some features that we’re not, we’re not thinking of that our customers really need? So looking at what the insights are, that they really want to pull, and then building questions that support those insights. But the questions are really just a guide. So okay, when I’m, so when I’m doing these interviews, I have my questions in front of me. And they’re the same questions that I’m going to ask every customer for this particular program. 

But we might not get to all of the questions because the customer has some really great specific insight on one particular area that we just dig into. Or it might bring up another question that isn’t on our list, but that is very natural and support the the KDIs, the key desired insights. So that’s really my recommendation. It’s a balance of, yes, you have, you have a direction, you have a set of questions, but it’s your guide. It’s not a script. 

Nancy: And that’s okay. So, basically, what you’re describing is a skill. It could be a learned skill, is that correct? And how would people go about learning this, and you know, what I’m thinking of as you’re speaking. I’m thinking of active listening, as the driver and listening to how the customer responds to know if you have to pivot in another direction? or stay on the questions. Would you agree with that? 

Tonya: I would absolutely agree with that. You know, I think that listening, you know, and, and particularly in our sales profession, right, you know, listening is a skill that is always talked about, has forever been talked about, I think, you know, you find the pounded out tablets, and they’re gonna talk about listening. You know, always. And so I think I think you’re absolutely right. But I think that with all of the distractions, and, you know, just difficulty of attention that we have in the, you know, in today’s market, I think it’s even more important than ever, truly, I really think that it’s a skill that that has still not been fully embraced by a lot of salespeople. And it’s important, and not just sales people, but their managers and executives and everybody on down the line. 

Nancy: Yeah, what is something you’d want me to spotlight? What do you want to talk about? 

Tonya: You know, I, it’s really important for, you know, for people to understand that the customer experience, oftentimes, particularly if you’re looking at SMB, who as we all know, and this is typically limited on resource resources, the customer experience oftentimes ends up being a byproduct of other efforts, right? So your customer experience is going to fall under sales, or it’s going to fall under marketing, or, you know, once the sale is made. It’s now if it’s, if it’s a technical company, right, it’s now the support staff that’s responsible for the customer experience. And that isn’t that isn’t enough. 

You know, the customer experience needs to be something that’s very intentional. You know, I think that’s where you see, so many companies now, hiring customer experience officers, right that CXO. Because it’s becoming so much more important, it’s becoming more important for retention purposes. You mentioned in the introduction, how much it costs, to acquire a new customer, versus retaining your existing customers. And you know, the number I use is at least five times right now, so much research and studies and different statistics around that. But I think for most companies, it’s at least five times more to acquire a new customer than it was to retain an existing customer. 

You have to recruit, you know, in order to grow, you need to acquire new customers. I mean, you can’t stop doing that. But right. I think that that happens oftentimes at the expense of really retaining those existing customers. Leveraging those existing customers. We work hard. You know, you work hard, Nancy, I work hard. Every client, we work with every company out there, we work hard to win our customers. And companies need to keep them. And they need to be able to leverage them as, as a resource to sell more. So that’s, that’s what I really like for people to think about is to make improving the customer experience in an intentional practice, not a byproduct. 

Nancy: Yeah, so I want to go back to and I apologize, your designated questions. What was that accurate acronym you use? Not a KPI? 

Tonya: Yes, you’re not a real company? If you don’t have acronyms, right. So I had to come up with. I call them my KDIs. My key desired insights. 

Nancy: Desired insights. So when you’re faced in front of a customer, or, you know, yeah, a customer and you’re representing them, how do you draw those insights out? Do they truly know what the issues are? 

Tonya: You know, I have a worksheet that I use, you know, is the kind of the first step once, once a customer signs on, the first step in our process is to look through those and I have a list of gosh, just a couple of different areas, within an organization that I have found can benefit from insight through the these customer programs. And so I have again, and I have some questions, because I’m always asking questions. I have some questions that I asked. And, you know, usually, in my experience, there’s, there’s a couple things that people absolutely know, that they, you know, they absolutely know that this is an area of concern, this is something that we need to work on. 

And we get that in the mix very quickly. And then there, there oftentimes ends up being at least one or two of those KDIs, I usually established two to four, right? It’s too much. If you get too many, then it’s just not manageable. But I think two to four is a good number going into any, any program like this, there’s usually a couple that we that we tease out that they weren’t thinking about, before the process started, that a big word thinking could could be areas where customer insight would be a benefit. And yeah.

Nancy: You know, you you’ve been around in sales, and I am what I love about you is you’re honest, and upfront. Tell me something you believe is true that almost nobody agrees with you on? 

Tonya: That’s a good one. Um, I think the first thing that comes to mind, and I think this is relevant today, you know, with all of the time that we have spent on zoom over the past year or so, is that I have found when I complete these interviews with with the customers that are doing it over the phone, just a good old fashioned phone call is the best way to uncover the most deep and candid insights. I think for you know, for a lot of customers, being in you know, their office, whether it be home office, or their office office, and just sitting comfortably in a chair with a cup of coffee. 

And they’re on the phone, and they don’t have to worry about, you know, what they’re looking like on a zoom camera that that is for these interviews, the best format. And I think that people think that that’s we passed that right that no, of everybody’s on zoom, or you know, in person, people are just as comfortable. And of course, those those types of conversations have their place. But for this work, just over the phone, that’s what I found to be the best way to complete these interviews. 

Nancy: Well, you know, I’m a big fan of that. And I think that the phones are a heck of a lot long, longer way than other modes of communication. I mean, the next best might be Zoom, because you’re still speaking right back and forth. But if it’s in written format, there’s so much that can be lost in the translation. So thank you for bringing up the phone again. I really appreciate that. 

Tonya: Yes, you’re right, Nancy. Well, and that’s one of the reasons that I think you and I really, you know, we agree on a lot of things. And there’s a lot of synergy there. As we both appreciate the ability and the importance of just picking up the phone and having a conversation. 

Nancy: Pick up that phone, everyone. Okay, we do have to wrap this up. But I’d like you to share one takeaway you’d like the audience to leave with. 

Tonya: You know, I’m going to go back to what you said about my curiosity killing the cat, but thankfully, we’re not cats. Right. Be curious, right. My takeaway is genuinely truly be curious and allow fresh perspectives into your business. Because in order to, you know, in order to uncover new insight, you need fresh perspectives. So whether those are from third parties or whether those are from your customers, please let it be from your customers regardless of who else you include. Be curious and ask them questions. 

Nancy: Awesome. Well oh, and how can my audience find you? 

Tonya: So they can find me on my website. So Dirby is spelled Dirby. Okay, and my website is dirbysolutions.com. And you can also find me on LinkedIn. I would love for you to connect with me on LinkedIn. Tonya t o n y a Bjurstrom b j u r s t r o m. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one on LinkedIn. So yeah.

Nancy: Yeah, well, you in that beautiful smile will find you for sure. So thank you for everyone listening in. Thank you, Tonya for being on the show everyone have a fantastic sales day and take care of your customer.

Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at Nancy@oneofakindsales.com. To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at oneofakindsales.com/book.