Ideally, we are spending as much time as possible, working with our customers to help move them through their buying process. At the same time, customers are engaging sales people for only a small time in their buying process.
This raises the questions, “Are we accomplishing as much as we can in each engagement? Are we maximizing our contribution to the customer in those ‘meetings?’ Could we accomplish more, creating more value with the customer? Are we engaging the customer in a way that earns us more time and greater engagement for the customer?”
Unfortunately, I think we fail too often in all aspects, which exacerbates the situation, customers are investing less time with us, because we aren’t using their time as well as possible.
There are a lot of reasons contributing to this. We know, the customers can get much of their information from other sources, so they no longer need to spend time with sales to get this information. While knowing that, we tend to focus on those things they probably already know, talking about our products, talking about our companies, telling them we are the best solution. We become echo chambers for things the customer already knows, so we aren’t creating the value we might or that customers need.
We also have the tendency to focus on what we want to accomplish, being less sensitive to the work the customer needs to get done in the process and how they accomplish those things.
But these aren’t the only things that impact our and the customer productivity, there are other things that impact what we accomplish in these meetings.
Too often, we are unprepared, we may not have clear objectives of what we might accomplish. The thinking is, “I’ve been through hundreds of these meetings, I can deal with anything that comes up….”
Sometimes, we have a specific agenda, we’ve thought about the deal and the next step. We focus on that next step, getting what we need to achieve that next step.
And sometimes, we haven’t prepared the customer for what might be accomplished in the meeting, so they are ill positioned for the meeting. As a result we don’t achieve what we could and we have to schedule another meeting.
So we and the customer go through meeting after meeting, moving to the next step, completing that, then assessing the next step and the next meeting, and the next….
What is we rethink our customer meetings? Knowing the customer has less time for us, or for anyone, what can we do to accomplish more in fewer meetings?
Stephen Covey’s second habit comes to mind, “Begin with the end in mind.”
What if we started to design our meetings, rather than thinking of the next step, we began with the end in mind. We might start with understanding the work the customer needs to get done to solve their problem. We might think, “How do we help the customer accomplish this work in the fewest possible meetings, using their time as effectively as possible?”
We start thinking about how we accomplish not just the next objective, but how we might accomplish several things at a time. We help make it easier for the customer by helping them think in the same way, helping them organize themselves to accomplish more in less time than they might do otherwise.
Perhaps one of the most valuable things we can do in helping the customer is helping them think about all that need be done and how they might compress this work.
This changes the character of each meeting and how we and the customer accomplish more. We establish shared aggressive goals, both the customer and we make sure we have the right people involved in the meeting, and that everyone is prepared to achieve the goals of the meeting.
When we start thinking about the work the customer needs to get done to address their problems and issues, designing our engagement process around helping them do that as effectively and efficiently as possible, we change everything–creating much more value, as well as improving our own time utilization.