I was read a great post written by my friend Charles H. Green, Why Client Focus Can’t Be About Profits. It’s outstanding, be sure to read it.
Regular readers will know that I spend a lot of time working with organizations on Value Propositions. In the past 18 months, I’ve written over 40 articles related to this topic.
Charlie’s post reminded me that I hadn’t written about one of the most important things about value propositions. To tell you the truth, I assumed we all knew about this and just never wrote about it. Thanks to Charlie for the reminder.
The ultimate differentiator in developing and delivering value to customers is Caring About Their Success. It’s that simple, there are no tricks, techniques or tools. Caring About Your Customer’s Success has to be genuine, it has to be what drives you in working with your customer.
Caring About Your Customers’ Success has a couple of dimensions. One is the overall organizational or enterprise success. Are we helping them achieve their goals with their customers, employees, and stakeholders?
Caring About Your Customers’ Success–each individual involved in the decision is critical–but we often overlook it. Part of this, I think, is that as business professionals, we are trained to focus on business issues, not people, not individuals. Another part is that caring about individuals means that we have to establish a genuine relationship with our customers. Establishing that relationship means that we have to open ourselves and our vulnerabilities.
If we don’t care about our Customers’ Success–and I don’t mean giving the term lip service–I mean genuinely caring, then why should that customer trust us enough to give us their business.
This issue was brought home in a conversation I had with a client a number of years ago. We had just agreed to do a project, I closed the deal. As we were talking about it, the client made this comment (I almost missed it, I was so excited about the opportunity): “Dave, every firm we were considering was pretty much equal in terms of capability, reputation, pricing. The thing we like about you is that you really seem to care about us. It seems important to you that we are successful—that’s really important to us.”
I bothered by many of the conversations I have with sales people. With the customer, they seem to be great. They listen well, ask good questions, respond to the customer politely and, seemingly, genuinely. Yet, when we get in the car or are back in the office, they talk in very different terms. Getting the deal done takes precedence–regardless of whether it is right for the customer. Sometimes sales people speak poorly of customers—they don’t know what they are doing, they aren’t giving us a chance….. In the worst case, I hear conversations about manipulation–what will we do to get the business? These are indicators that we don’t care about our customer’s success. These attitudes come through to the customer, eroding our relationship and their trust.
Caring About Our Customers’ Success changes the quality of the conversations profoundly! When our customers “get” that we care about them, they open up, they share what they really are trying to achieve, they share their concerns. They do this simply because they know we care (funny how that works) and that we are not just doing a deal.
Don’t think that I am some starry eyed idealist, focusing on what’s right for the customer regardless of whether it’s good for us and our company. For reasons that I don’t understand, many think these are not compatible. We should never pursue opportunities that are not good business for us. This needs to be part of our dis-qualifying process. Knowing the deal is a good deal for us frees us up to focus on doing good for our customer. Customers know this and get it–after all isn’t this the spirit of win-win?
Caring About Our Customers’ Success, wanting to Make A Difference For Our Customers is the ultimate differentiator, both to our short term success and in building lifetime relationships with our customers.
If you don’t care about your Customers’ Success-genuinely, it’s time to get out of sales.