In Sales & Marketing, Remember: It’s About the Customer, Not You!

Your prospect or customer wants to know: What can you do for me?

If you really want to breakthrough with prospects and customers, you’re going to have to be prepared to demonstrate what’s in it for them. That means asking the right questions, listening well, doing your research and skillfully crafting a story that shows how your products or services make the customer and his company winners.

The concept of strategically collecting and applying information for positive customer engagement is nothing new. Knowing about the concept is one thing. However, being able to successfully deploy it is something else.

Marketers should know and understand the key points about strategic and consultative selling.  (There are numerous articles and guides than can be read.) Further, marketers should provide sales teams with the necessary tools and materials to successfully engage in this type of selling (e.g., examples of how the products and services can help customers and prospects succeed in various usage applications, end-user research, etc).

Dynamic and Fun Example

This example takes the practice of strategic selling to a whole new level of proficiency. It provides a discussion springboard for what can be applied at your company.

In this story, the seller wants the customer to have an excellent experience. One member of the selling team takes extraordinary action to go beyond making that happen. His objective is to cater to the customer’s specific interests and tastes instead of simply fitting the seller’s standard offerings to the customers. He creates an amazing, unique experience. For that sales team member, it is customer first.

To begin, let’s introduce the main characters.

■ The seller is an industrious restaurant wine director.

■ The customer is Greg Popovich, coach of the NBA team San Antonio Spurs. Under his leadership, the Spurs have won five NBA championships. Popovich also serves as the head coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team. In addition to his basketball coaching prowess, describing him as a wine enthusiast is an understatement. He is a true oenophile. Popovich, often referred to as simply Pop, has created a bit of legend and mystique around the dinners with wine that he hosts for his team, colleagues and friends. They are food and wine combination events designed with a business leadership and teamwork purpose.

When Greg Popovich scheduled one of his team dinners at a Sacramento, California restaurant for a group of 40, wine director Jeremy Threat went into action. Continue reading

A Cure for We-know-it-itis

When is the last time you asked your customers:  How are we doing?

I’m thinking about the “voice of the customer” because I just received my latest newspaper survey, which seems to come about once a year.

The local paper boils its customer tracking down to six questions.

Click on image to Enlarge

While you may be tempted to dismiss the simplicity of the paper’s research focus, it’s clear they have prioritized what they want to know, and the questions have been structured to facilitate immediate customer service reinforcement or improvement.  Depending on the responses to the open-ended questions, they may get some bonus learning.

You may remember the old saying “the truth hurts,” which is sometimes the case.  Learn to embrace and use the truth to your advantage.  When it comes to operating your business and maximizing performance, relying on limited, assumption-based rather than fact-based knowledge has the potential to lead the organization astray (think the emperor with no clothes).  Regardless of your business, getting feedback and input from whomever buys and uses your products and services is vital.

One of the most debilitating phenomena in business is not embracing an “outside-in” mindset and succumbing to a bad case of  “we-know-it-itis.”  Yes, you do and should know a great deal about your business, and experience does count.  Make sure it stays that way by getting the scoop directly from your customers or consumers.  When I was a management consultant, we would, as part of our upfront work, interview and/or survey employees and customers.  By design, we always interviewed the most senior executives last.   Invariably, at some point during our conversations with these company leaders, we challenged ingrained and incorrect points-of-view with fact-based “voice of the employee” and “voice of the customer” data.

Your customer understanding and tracking initiative may be a bit more involved than the local newspaper, but, depending on your operation, it may not be!  As is often the case in marketing, there’s no substitute for thorough front-end thinking.  Make sure you and your extended team take the time to formulate the key information you need and prepare a written brief to guide your internal or research agency effort.  Based on my experience, I recommend you include at least the following sections in your brief:

  • Reason for the brief (why you need the research and how it will be used)
  • Research objectives and desired learning
  • Research targets
  • Geographic scope
  • Execution guidance and comments
  • Timing
  • Budget
  • Presentation format
  • Appendix for reference information/data

Headline For Marketers:  Ed Koch, the famous New York City Mayor, became renowned for going around the city asking people:  How’m I doing?  It’s a great lesson for the rest of us too.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

Share