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Do You Know How Your Customer Is Measured?

by David Brock on July 28th, 2014

As sales people, we’re used to being measured.  We have pipeline metrics, quotas.  We may have weekly call or meeting goals.  We have prospecting goals, and on and on and on.

Metrics are important to knowing how we are doing in achieving our goals.  Some of those metrics are critical in evaluating performance or to our compensation plans.  Every sales person understands how they are measured and are driven to achieve their goals.

Our customers are no different, they have goals for which they are accountable.  They have metrics that let them know how they are doing.

Do you know how your customer is measured?

I ask sales people this question–most don’t know—or are guessing.  But until we know how our customers are measured, we don’t know what they really care about, how we can help them, or how we create the greatest value, how we catch their attention.

Everyone has performance goals and objectives (or they should have).  The goals can be very high level for their organization–achieve the launch goals for a new product line, bring a new manufacturing line up, reduce IT costs, reduce receivables by a certain amount, improve employee retention, ……..

The goals can be very specific and focused on the individual.  Develop new skills, achieve certain goals in your function.  Think–sales people have very specific goals, it’s no different with our customers.

Just as metrics are important to us, they are important to our customers.  It’s the basis for how their job performance is evaluated every year.  It may be the basis for how they might be promoted.  It may be the basis for how they are compensated or their bonus.  It may be the basis for whether they even get to keep their job.

Several organizations I work with have very formal performance planning/management processes–each person has a performance plan in place which guides what they do and how they set their priorities.  Often, I’ll ask to take a look at their performance plan.  Reading the performance plan tells me exactly what’s important to them.  I know what drives them, their priorities.  In some sense, I know the key issues that will make them heroes to their management.

Once I see their performance plan, I can  figure out how I can be most helpful to them.  What can I do to help them achieve their goals?  How can I impact the metrics?

Even in organizations with less formal performance management processes, people have goals and objectives.  It’s important for us to understand them.  It’s important that we know how they will be measured, and what we can do to help each achieve their goals and metrics.

We each know how we’re measured, but do you know how your customer is measured?  Knowing this is the key to your customers’ success and your success.

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  1. Sounds simple but this is the most important question to ask since we all have customers to serve.

  2. Excellent post David. One of my favorite questions in a variety of forms asks, “How can I help your performance?” Early in my career during a major negotiation, the procurement officer (different title back then) for a Fortune 500 company asked me, “How can you make me look good?”

    Like most salespeople, I assumed buyers were measured on how much money they saved. This execs question made me curious when they did not bring up money. He taught me a valuable lesson that day when I responded with, “What are my options to make you look good?”

    Delivery and quality guarantees were at the top of his list. Of course I needed to back up our guarantee, which as I recall came with stiff penalties.

    In a recent meeting with the sales VP of a Fortune 1000 company, I asked where they wanted to be within their organization in the near and long-term future. And then I asked, how can I support your goals.

    Our clients have career goals beyond job security and bonuses. This side of relationship development outperforms golf, fishing, hunting and other “friendly” approaches. The bottom line is always the bottom line. I’m so glad your writing on this side of the table.

    • Thanks Gary, it is such a critical issue, but I see too few people asking the customer explicitly. But as your examples show, it is so helpful in moving us forward in the relationship and on the right issues.

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