All of us want to be selling products and services that are mission critical for our customers. Imagine having a solution core to your customers’ business success, without it they couldn’t survive, grow, or thrive.
The unfortunate reality is, for most of us, many of our products don’t fit that category. Don’t get me wrong, they provide great value, but they aren’t at the forefront of customers’ minds. Regardless how well be position the problems they solve, how well we quantify the value, often, the customer says, “I can scrape through for another year. I just don’t have an urgent need for your product.”
If we are lucky, they may put it in the budget for next year, we mark our calendars to call the customer on January 2 (or whatever their fiscal year start is), asking, “Did you get the budget? Can we move forward?”
Sometimes they get the budget, but often, it’s diverted. Something more important or critical arises and they divert “our funding” to something else.
How do we catch their attention? How do we get them to buy? We have a great business case, but we aren’t on the critical path of the things they have to achieve, we’re somewhere on the sidelines.
Perhaps, the real opportunity we have and the real value we can create is actually freeing the customer up to do something more important. Rather than trying to become mission critical, where we really aren’t, we can free them up to focus on those things that are mission critical.
Let’s walk through the logic of this.
We know whatever problems you help customers solve is important enough that they are doing it–somehow. Maybe they are doing it manually, maybe they have a very old system or solution held together by whatever today’s equivalent of “Duct tape and bailing wire.” It’s not critical to their core business or strategies, but they have to do it and get it done, they can’t stop.
We also know our customers are time poor. It’s not often, I walk into someone’s office finding them twiddling their thumbs, trying to figure out how they spend their afternoons. Most have too much on their plates, they simply can’t get everything done. They are overloaded and overwhelmed!
Perhaps our strategy should be simply to take something off the overloaded plate. Give them one less thing to worry about. Free up time so they can focus on something more important.
Rather than trying to make what we do important to the customer, perhaps making it unimportant, but getting it off the customer’s plate is more effective.
Facilities management companies, cafeteria services, office supplies–all have done great jobs in leveraging this strategy. Think about it, making sure wastebaskets are emptied, offices are dusted/vacuumed, windows are cleaned, or bath rooms are cleaned probably doesn’t drive a penny of revenue for the customer. These services aren’t critical to their growth or ability to serve their customers (unless in retail, hospitality, food/beverage).
But it’s something that has to get done!
Customers don’t want to have to worry about making sure they clean the offices every day, they get someone else to do it, so they can focus on those things that drive revenue.
Sometimes, rather than trying to be more important to the customer, the value we really create is letting the customer focus on what’s really important, leaving us to solve the stuff that still has to get done.
As another idea, I use virtual assistants for a lot of things in our company. The things they do are things any of us could do, but using VA’s free’s each of us up to invest time in things that only we can do and which drive revenue growth!
If you struggle to be important to your customer, but just can’t become mission critical, how can you help customers by freeing up their time to focus on what’s mission critical?
We still have to provide a cost/business justified solution. But a large part of the business value, which too often we don’t include in our models is the value to them to be able to do something really important, rather than what you do.
Perhaps, that will help capture the customer’s attention, help them find the money to do something now, rather than get to it when they have the time. The reality is they will never have the time–so they and we miss a huge opportunity.