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Think About It… the e-book version » Customer Focus

Archive for the ‘Customer Focus’ Category.

What do your customers really think of you & your company?

by Todd Youngblood

The problem with “good” customers is that they like you too much to complain about the little things. What’s scary is that little things almost always grow into big things…

Your rep tells you that everything with “Big Customer X” is fine. He makes phone contact weekly and a personal call twice a month. Their order volume is growing at a steady pace. There has not been a single complaint for 11 months. The cross-sell effort appears to be progressing nicely.

Then you get a letter from your key contact informing you that starting next month, your products and services will no longer be required.

Unlikely scenario? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. While you were anything but fat, dumb and happy – maybe just a bit of complacency had begun to creep in. The special procedures you designed and put in place exclusively for them had been working great for almost a year – even though the business environment had changed a bit. The relationship with the decision maker seemed good – even though most of the interaction lately had been with a subordinate. You know their requirements in painful detail – or at least you did back when you submitted the proposal. (Need I go on?)

Maybe it makes sense, at least once a year, to get an independent perspective on the quality of your service, support and relationship with every key account. This objective outsider might be asked to conduct a series of interviews with customer personnel and ask them about:

  • Their perception of the value you deliver
  • Their perception of what makes you different
  • What they like and dislike about your company, your products, your services and your support
  • What’s missing from what you provide
  • What new projects, strategies and requirements are on the horizon

It’s the basic stuff. Nothing fancy. Just one more crystal clear message to your customers that you really are thankful for their business. That you are deadly serious about and absolutely committed to understanding how you can serve them better. That you are conducting this unique set of interviews using an objective third party to demonstrate that you really do “walk the walk.”

Think about it…

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How well do you really understand your customer’s business?

by Todd Youngblood

If you complete a President’s Model analysis for an important account, you’ll know more about that customer than its employees know

No sales manager would argue that a thorough understanding of a customer’s business is essential for long term sales success. Any rep that can complete the three phases of a President’s Model analysis on an account really does know what’s up.

Phase one consists of understanding that customer’s overall Vision, Mission, Goals and Objectives. These are the basics that can be found in an annual report and/or their basic marketing materials.

Phase two requires a series of sales calls on key players to gather information in six categories:

  • Environment - These are factors that have an impact on the customer, but over which the customer has no control. Government regulation and general economic conditions are examples.
  • Corporate Culture - Is the environment paternal or one driven solely by hard results? Does top management make all the decisions or do they delegate?
  • SWOTs – What are their Strengths? Weaknesses? What Opportunities are open to them? What Threats do they face?
  • Strategy – Given the factors described by the above, what are their strategies for each major functional area? (i.e., The strategy for Sales, Finance, HR, etc.)
  • Organization – Given the strategies, how have they organized to implement them?
  • Metrics – What hard measurements are used to determine if the strategies are successful in achieving the desired results?

Phase three is the most powerful in terms of identifying the “hot buttons” that will motivate them to buy. It consists of identifying and understanding the interactions among the six categories and how they affect one another.

Say, for example, that during a call on the CEO, responsiveness to service requests is identified as a Weakness. Having the President’s Model in mind, you point out that no single entity in their Organization is responsible for it. Next, you happen to know that responsiveness is one of the Strengths of Joe Z in their warehouse and the company has a Culture of assigning important projects to low-ranking, but potential high achievers like him. You suggest working with Joe to implement Strategy “X” (that happens to require purchase of your product/service) and use a set of Metrics that a reference account of yours used successfully last quarter.

Get the idea? Fill in the facts for each section of the President’s Model for each key account. Then go make calls asking questions that help your customer think through the possible combinations and permutations of causes, effects and strategies. With the product/service knowledge you already have, the applications and the sales opportunities will quickly become clear.

Click here for a pdf version.  Click here for a blank “Pres Mod” in Word that you can copy, then fill out for each of your key accounts.

Think about it…

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How Customer Focused are you? (really…)

by Todd Youngblood

More business people pay more lip service to Customer Focus than to any other critical success factor.

For the last thirty days I have been trying to find a business contact that did not consider a high degree of Customer Focus to be a critical success factor. No surprise, I didn’t find any.

What has been really interesting is the conversation that follows. First it was necessary to get past the “what an obvious question” initial reaction. Then the dialogue turned to how Customer Focus performance is actually measured.
While it was quite easy to talk about (wax eloquent even), hard metrics were few and far between. How do you measure Customer Satisfaction? How often do you formally measure it? What are your Customer Service standards? Are your employees aware of them? Are your customers aware of them? What are the top 5 reasons your customers buy from you? What are the top 5 reasons they decide not to buy from you?

How do you formally collect and analyze customer requirements? What is your “Customer Share” (like market share, but measured for an individual account) for your top 25 customers? What is their “Lifetime Value” to your firm? What is the quality of your relationship with each key decision maker? How often do your top execs meet face-to-face with their customer counterparts?

As the questions continue the level of discomfort increases. It’s simply too easy to deliver the lip service and never get around to the methodical nuts, bolts and metrics of true Customer Focus.

So what’s the action plan? Try these four steps:

  • Assess: How do I stack up today vs. others?
  • Plan: Identify key initiatives to improve “CF” performance
  • Implement: Do it!
  • Measure: Keep score

Think about it…

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