We have a couple of things to share with you this week. First, we have a
new whitepaper available, based on our recent series profiling a
client's success in customer experience management: Check out
Managing the Customer Experience: A Case Study, which was a
collaborative effort with PTC.
We also present an article by Ned Daubney about making the most of your
sales meetings. With only one chance to make a great first impression,
the goal isn't to simply make a good showing based upon your polish,
poise and demeanor. You want to have a value-added conversation (in the
eyes of the prospect / customer) straight out of the gate. We hope that
you find the following article insightful and that it enables you to
knock it out of the park! And if you'd like to learn more about this
concept, feel free to
contact us by phone or email.
Introducing the Customer Strategist
We all know how
important customer meetings are -- you never get a second chance to make
a great first impression. In this article, I discuss how important
customer meetings can fall flat, and how intelligently applied customer
analysis can change the game. More specifically, I introduce the role of
"Customer Strategist" as a member of the sales team, to focus on
understanding customer strategy and aligning it with what your company
Many key customer meetings fail because the sales team didn't deeply
understand and effectively exploit the opportunity -- they didn't do all
their homework. The "opportunity" is not just what the team thinks it
can sell. It is more about knowing how to best position and present what
they can sell, given the corporate strategies, executive personalities
and competitive offerings. And for that they need an information-fed
Cases in Point
A sales team
planning to sell a large-scale enterprise IT solution to Sears
Holdings changed its strategy after research found Sears was in no
condition to make the purchase. Sears had serious IT deficiencies
and greatly lagged its top competitors technologically. However,
just post-merger with K-mart, the combined entity had serious
leadership and decision-making issues, and the team now expected
slow comprehension and execution of the solutions. Based on these
findings the sales team decided to pitch smaller, point solutions,
and provide a vision for longer term solutions.
A leading IT
outsourcing firm selling ERP services to a large chemical firm
tweaked its positioning after research found that the firm's new CIO
was "in way over her head." We learned that this CIO had no formal
IT education, had just been hired away from a much smaller firm, and
that her last ERP implementation was now failing miserably. Her new
CEO had publicly promoted his new ERP plan and his new CIO as its
champion. We suspected she was a bit overwhelmed. Based on this
intelligence, the IT firm subtly positioned its ERP outsourcing
service as a way to the take the load of her back, and even more
delicately, as a way to save her job.
At a customer
briefing, the CIO of mid-size manufacturer began by asking the sales
team if anyone was familiar with his firm's business strategy. After
an awkward silence, he dejectedly looked down and explained their
strategy. Clear to me was that this deal was already lost - the
sales team didnĄ't do its homework.
a state government CIO told me how frustrated she was with IT
vendors' lack of preparation -- and respect, and she now insists
that vendors understand their business strategy before they walk in
her door. "This is public information," she tells them, "Find it."
...and the ugly:
I witnessed a
Fortune 100 firm senior executive, in support of a regional sales
team, fly cross-country to attend a regional executive briefing --
and swore never to return as he witnessed an unprepared, unfocused
sales team stumble its way through the meeting.
From what I have
seen, too much expectation is put on each sales person to analyze their
strategic customer opportunities, and so this analysis rarely gets done
to any acceptable level. Customer meetings often take place with sales
teams recognizing a lot more could have been known about the opportunity
and decision makers. No real connection is made with attendees. Meetings
meander. Presentations are less customized, executive speakers less
focused, and conversations less relationship-oriented. Customers leave
under-whelmed. Sales teams leave potential relationships on the table.
Selling to strangers is a drag.
Despite the availability today of just about any customer information,
few do the hard work of deep-dive customer analysis. Everyone recognizes
the need for customer research before a meeting. Crucial information
lies not just in SEC documents, Hoover's and Crush reports, but also in
blogs, Tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn, and every trade magazine and website
on earth. Add to this your firm's hidden internal knowledge both from
former sales teams and from your Market Research team. Ignore the
entirety of available strategy-setting customer intelligence and you are
your competitors' dog meat. Ok, that was harsh, but you get the point.
Deep-Dive Customer Analysis
Deep-dive is digging further into issues, reading between the lines, and
constantly asking why. Say you find a customer's CEO quote in his
quarterly earnings update that indicates a future 50% reduction in IT
expenditures. Digging deeper is trying to find out why. What is driving
this reduction? Are they simply finishing off a large IT contract or are
they fundamentally changing their IT approach? How should you
re-position your solution in light of these deeper findings?
Sales people simply don't have the time, skill, or will to dig deep --
and it is a tough assignment. Research is not their specialty, and I
would argue that today it takes a specialist. Few world-class meetings
result from second-rate research efforts.
Funny to me is how firms spend big bucks on McKinsey, Accenture,
Gartner, IDC and even their own in-house research departments for
overall market assessments, but when it comes to an actual, live
strategic opportunity, they expect their sales people to Google and
Hoover their way to the finish line. Why does quality research support
stop when it is most needed and when the ROI is so clear?
Serving a nice hot beef brisket lunch to a CIO who had recently blogged
about his family's devotion to Veganism? Oops. I bet the competition
served nice hot Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce. Public information may
be your gift, but it's also your burden.
Here's a solution -- and what some top firms do: Embed a "Customer
Strategist" into sales teams for strategic accounts. Appoint a senior
level analyst who understands the sales process, and who can gain the
respect of, and influence "Type A" sales people and executives. The
Customer Strategist is responsible for deeply analyzing select customer
opportunities, and for helping to construct intelligence-fed account and
meeting strategies. This person could also help coordinate customer
briefings -- ensuring sales strategies and presentations synch and
reflect research findings.
The strategist's role is to ask the sales team at each step of the sales
cycle, "So what information do you need to close this deal?" Then they
use their skills to answer these questions, and proffer their own ideas
and recommendations. They filter, analyze and help integrate customer
intelligence into the overall sales strategy. They ensure the sales team
conducts a focused, coordinated, visionary, and relationship-building
Think about it -- a more informed, focused, and relationship-directed
sales strategy makes meetings more effective, efficient and fun.
strategic opportunities, having a professional "Customer Strategist"
perform deep-dive research duties for sales teams will accelerate
opportunities and relationships. Let the top sales people sell, and an
embedded Customer Strategist support strategic opportunities -- together
they can deliver much more effective, focused, successful and fun
About Ned Daubney: Ned is a sales
team's best friend -- uniquely helping to nurture and close
strategic B2B customer opportunities. He helps teams achieve success by
delivering deep-dive customer analysis, intelligence-fed strategies, and
executive briefing support catered to each deal. Ned is a high-energy,
innovative marketing and sales professional with extensive experience
working closely with sophisticated sales teams. Principal and Founder of
SalesTeam Strategies, Ned has over twenty five years of sales and
marketing management and strategic research experience in both high tech
and financial services industries. Ned previously worked as Director of
Technology and Financial Services Practice for Fuld & Company, a global
market intelligence consulting firm. Prior to Fuld, Ned held sales and
marketing management roles at leading high-tech and financial services
firms, including Cisco Systems, Aspen Technology, GTE Internetworking/Genuity,
Lotus/IBM and The Boston Financial Group. Ned holds an MBA in Marketing
from Babson College's F.W. Olin Graduate School of Management, and a BS
in Accounting from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
+ Introducing the Customer Strategist
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