We know insight is critical in engaging our customers, helping them think about their businesses differently. Our ability to discuss relevant insights can be very powerful in inciting customers to think differently, helping them commit to and manage change, helping them in their buying process.
In complex B2B change initiatives, the issues and challenges are likely to be relatively new to our customers. They probably haven’t considered these types of changes before. If they have, it may have been years ago, and the world has changed. Any experience they have, may be very limited–perhaps experiences in other organizations, perhaps things they have learned at conferences, or through casual web searches or articles. But unless it’s something they have dealt with very recently, it’s unlikely they have enough knowledge to develop a deep understanding of the issues, challenges, risks, potential returns, of how to make and implement a decision.
The seller plays an important role in helping the customer. Afterall, we and our customers are working with customers facing similar issues every day. We’ve seen hundreds to thousands of organizations confronting the same issues–some successfully, some unsuccessfully. We have deep knowledge and experience, not only in how our solutions fit, but in the business, organizational, risk and change management struggles companies have. We have the ability to provide insights, helping customers learn and manage their own initiatives more effectively. We can help the customer navigate their process, based on our experience with other organizations.
We see top performing sellers engaging customers with deep insight, and leveraging that creating value with the customer in effectively and efficiently managing that change.
In that process, our relationship with customers change. While the terms seem trite, we move from the vendor role, to that of a trusted partner. It’s out ability to work collaboratively, leveraging our experience and understanding to help the customer both in making a change decision and buying, through the successful implementation of that decision.
The more we do this with customers, the deeper those relationships become. Often, we move beyond that trusted partner role. We actually have the opportunity to move into an entirely new space. We become an innovation collaborator.
Our value creation moves from leveraging our experiences with other companies, industries, and markets, to creating new ways of doing things or doing new things.
Our customers come to us, not because of our insights and knowledge from other areas, but because of the deep relationship in solving problems. They value our understanding of them and similar businesses, our track record of helping them change, learn and grow.
They engage us in areas where they and we may not know the answers, but collaboratively we can figure them out. The goal is to leverage the collective abilities, knowledge and experiences of each organization to address areas neither has addressed–at least completely before.
As we look at the rate of change and disruption every organization faces, we find ourselves trying to figure out what to do next, but that next is something that may not have been done before. While it may not be new to the world, or may not be profound like solving for world peace. It is new to our customers, us, our markets, and our customers customers.
It is in this space, where we and our customers develop new understanding, new approaches, new applications of our solutions and, yes, new insights……
Not all customers will engage in these collaborative discoveries, typically, it’s the leaders in an industry or market. Not all of us will want to engage in these collaborative discoveries, it requires new skills and capabilities; as well as the confidence in doing something where we may not have all the answers, but where we know we can, with the customers, discover the answers.
But getting access to these opportunities are important. They become platforms for both the customer and us to learn, develop new thinking and approaches and grow.
It’s from these experiences that we develop new solutions and new insights—which we take to other companies as they, too, look to learn and grow.
Collaborative innovation is where we go, when we have mastered the ability to leverage insights meaningful to our customers. It’s the space where we develop new insights and find new opportunities, and create unique value.
What are you doing to find and earn the right to work with small number of customers in collaborative innovation? These are the fuel to your future growth.
Afterword: In the coming months you will find me writing very frequently on how organizations can help their customers innovate. We’ve been working with many clients, leveraging collaborative innovation to drive giant steps in performance. The results our clients are starting to see are profound, we will be sharing stories of these in the coming weeks/months. In the interim, you might be interested in this article on the Innovation Gray Space.
Collaborative innovation is the new frontier for creating value with our customers. There are so many very rich examples we can learn from, adapt, and drive far higher levels of success. Hope you enjoy the ar