One of my favorite songs, as a kid, was Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain….” It was not only a great song, but provoked decades of discussion about who she was singing about.
Fast forwarding to current times, based on how we engage our customers, we demonstrate a similar vanity. We think our customer care about us–they obsess about our companies, our products, and how great we are.
I can imagine an updated version of the song, “We’re so vain, we probably think the customers care about us…”
At least, we conduct our engagement strategies based on our belief that customers really care and inundating them with our corporate glamour charts are what they care about. Not long ago, I reviewed the engagement strategies of a large technology company. They had a mandatory 16 page presentation they had to present to every prospect. The first 15 pages, were all about the technology company. There were the logo slides, the Gartner magic quadrant slides, a slide dedicated to the greatness of each of their key product groups, and so forth. The final slide, didn’t focus on the customer and their needs, but simply was a thank you and “Do you need more info, slide.”
Talk about vanity!
Recently, thanks to Brent Adamson and Matt Heinz, this self oriented obsession came up again in the discussion. They shared their experiences in watching sellers. They described similar situations with other seller. Sellers obsessed in understanding what our prospects and customers think about us, our companies, and our solutions. Sellers spending more time convincing customers about how great the sellers were, rather than understanding the customers.
In that discussion, the unfortunate reality came up. Our customers simply don’t care! They don’t care about how great we are, our logo slides, our “leading products.”
What do they care about?
That’s easy, and understandable. They are obsessed with themselves–their own company and it’s performance, and themselves. Unless they are in procurement, they don’t describe themselves as buyers. They describe themselves as finance, HR, engineers, developers, manufacturing, operations, marketing, sales, customer experience. Buying is something they do as an exception to their “day jobs.”
Buying, if ever considered, might only be a part of a change initiative or problem solving initiative (and only a minority of those initiatives) involve buying.
When involved in a change or problem solving initiative, their focus is still not on us and what we sell. They are concerned about the project itself. Are they defining it in the right way, do they understand all the issues, do they understand the risks, are they learning from others who have experienced the same challenges, do they have the right people involved, are they getting the support they need…….
Are they doing the right thing……
We, sellers, aren’t something they care about or worry about until they start looking at buying something as part of the overall project initiative. And then, when they are buying, the still aren’t concerned with the vanity issues sellers obsess on.
They are concerned about alternative solutions only in the context of what it does for them and whether they are doing the right thing.
They don’t care about the stuff we want them to care about.
If we are to engage our customers effectively, if we are to create the value they most need; stop putting ourselves into the center of their process, instead putting them at the center. We have to focus on helping them achieve their goals, to become confident they are doing the right thing.
All of this has little to do with what we sell, but how we make the customer feel in the process.
Imagine if, rather than making it all about us, we make it all about the customer…..