January 08, 2009

Time to Get Closer to the Customer

‘Close to the customer’ was a buzz word in the 1980s and 90s inspired by one of the biggest management books of all times; In Search of Excellence – the classic study of Americas most successful company by Peters and Waterman.

However, there is one aspect of closeness to the customer that has a major impact on the sales success of many organisations. Companies have successfully sold, installed and supported their solutions. Yet, they often lack detailed information, or even a clear understanding, of the experiences of their customers, at all levels – from end users to managers – of using their solutions.

That impacts on their ability to proactively manage and grow the post sale customer relationship and in selling to new customers leaves them short of information, stories and data on the real and specific benefits and challenges experienced by using their product.

We are always encouraging managers to get more specific regarding the quantifiable business impact of their solutions, such as for example the impact on key metrics such as costs, sales, time to market, etc. Yet, we are amazed to find that most organizations struggle with providing this information, or substantiating it by reference to results achieved by their customers.

We are also encouraging sales people to communicate benefits and features in the most compelling manner possible – by telling customers stories, whether by means of case studies, anecdotes, or customer references. Here again, however, closeness to the customer in terms of the experiences, use cases, etc. of the solutions sold are vitally important.

Could you get closer to your customer? When is the last time you talked to an end user? Do you know all the joys and frustrations experienced by the users? What are they key metrics against which customers measure your solution? What are the stories that you really want prospects to hear?

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