Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Know Thy Customer

Seems like a pretty common sense piece of advice...and it is, BUT DO YOU? In the upcoming months I need to spend time on the road going out and meeting with customers and prospects to ensure I have an accurate perspective on how 'they' see our product. It is very easy to get caught up in the act of navel gazing and convincing yourself everything is alright. It is also easy to carefully and conservatively maneuver through the difficult end of this year and 2009 convincing yourself that sales are down due to the poor economy and you would be right....in part. If your value proposition is compelling and provable aren't troubled economic times the best time to help your customers with their business problems? A few rules for getting to know your customers:
  1. Be generous with your customers - make the conversation about them not you. Find out what their biggest pain points are and see if there are ways you can assist them. If their biggest problem is NOT one you can solve, help them anyway. Connect them to a business partner with expertise, or a peer from another company who has successfully fought and won the same battle.
  2. Research and prepare - take the time to print out articles on their company and industry and read them ahead of the meeting. Understand the macroeconomics of their industry and vertical to build their trust and confidence that you are a knowledgeable and trusted advisor.
  3. Remember your Mother - I remember my mom telling me that I was given two ears and one mouth for a reason and they should be used in that proportion. Remember, you are there to learn! Learn what business problems are occurring at your customer and in his industry. Learn what they like and more importantly DO NOT like about your product. Learn how YOU can help THEM. In order to achieve the goals of the meeting remember to listen twice as much as you talk.
  4. Follow Up - Drop your customer a note when you return to the office that follows up on the meeting and thanks them for their time and interest in discussing their problems with you. Follow up with them on the commitments you made at your meeting whether that be a proposal, a contact's phone number you promised them, copies of materials they requested.

This process puts you in a position where once a month or quarter you can call your customer check in and see how they are doing. They may not need your services this trip but if you help them with their business problems whatever they are...your time will come. In the mean time you walk away with valuable information on how your product is used, perceived, the value it is driving and the problems customers are having with it. All in all a pretty worth while trip for both party's.

Let me know how this works for you or if you have a different approach

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