Listen to what your customer really wants
One of the greatest complaints customers have about Salespeople is that they are always ready to talk about the Products and Services they have to offer, but not about the customer’s problems and challenges. According to our recent research this is getting worse, not better.
This lack of listening usually implies two things: The Salesperson has not researched the company and industry sufficiently and, perhaps more importantly, not prepared and asked good questions to uncover what the customer really wants.
But each customer is unique. If you really strive to understand those differences and are flexible in the way you offer your solution, you can gain competitive advantage.
My unique customer
I was talking to a manufacturing customer recently, a hidden champion in their industry. After 4 years of successfully educating a large number of their employees globally, they wanted to extend this program to help their Key Account Managers collaborate and work more effectively in global deals. The Team that had created and deployed the current programme was keen to build on their success and deliver yet another blockbuster module. Apart from a sound Opportunity Management methodology, one of the key criteria to find the right partner for the new programme was their ability to adapt their solution to the company’s unique content design approach and teaching method.
What we did
We quickly understood that our standard solution would not fit the customer’s needs, so we could either choose to walk away or to rethink our approach. We decided to take on this challenge and changed the way we deliver our Opportunity Management programme by:
Adapting our sales terminology to fully integrate it with all the excellent work the customer had done in previous programmes
Designing a participant manual that contains a significant proportion of the content normally delivered by an Infoteam facilitator’s explanations
Educating the internal facilitators to deliver top-notch workshops and to coach their team’s application of the methods in day-to-day work
Was it worth the effort?
In a word, yes! When the Team presented the result of the design work and the outcome of the pilot programme to the Board, they all received high praise for the excellent alignment of the content to the company’s needs as well as the relevance for the target audience.
This experience has taught me the importance of really listening carefully (with an open mind), working to understand the customer’s true needs and taking a flexible approach to designing the solution.
Questions to challenge your way of working:
How do you ensure that you have really understood customer needs before presenting a solution?
How much flexibility do you have in creating solutions that meet the customer needs identified?
How do you go about identifying personal (as opposed to business) goals?
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