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What Do Our Customers Care About Now?

by David Brock on April 23rd, 2020

We are experiencing the mother of all “trigger events.” No company, no community, no region is immune to the health and economic challenges created by the pandemic.

We all have a compelling mandate to change. We–our people, our own organizations, our customers, our suppliers, our communities–are being forced to adapt and change. As much as some will resist the need to change, perhaps waiting things out, hoping things will get back to “the way they were before,” change has become mandatory.

Our customers are facing issues they have never faced and may not have the tools, knowledge or expertise to face. They need and want help.

As I talk to organizations, I am seeing some interesting shifts in priorities and strategies.

As the pandemic first hit, many of the strategies and priorities focused on cost reduction/containment. New investments were stopped or slowed. Many projects were stopped. Discretionary spending was cut as much as possible. In many organizations, people were laid off or furloughed.

In selling to customers during the initial weeks of the pandemic probably required a focus on cost reduction. Customers were interested in any solutions that could reduce costs and maximize cashflow.

In just the few short weeks since these initial, often knee jerk, reactions, I’m seeing a shift in the focus of many organizations. Some realized they over-reacted and cut too much, particularly around investments that would enable future growth.

Others have realized cost reduction is meaningless without revenue. They are shifting their priorities to looking at things that drive revenue growth. They recognize they have to invest in things that help them produce revenue. At the same time, cashflow is important, so the focus will be on the shortest path to revenue generation.

In all of these risk is always a critical issue. Understanding, managing, and minimizing risk is a top priority.

As our customers shift their priorities to revenue generation, they will focus on the few most critical projects. In the past, where customer may have had dozens to hundreds of projects to support their growth and business objectives, they will be far more conservative. They will invest slowly, choosing the few highest priorities, those that maximize revenue generation while minimizing impact on cashflow and risk.

As a result, our competition changes. For example, if we sell IT solutions to support revenue generation, our competition may not be just our competitors, but solutions in completely different areas–for example supply chain management, customer service or other areas.

If we are to be successful in achieving our goals, we must focus on what’s important to our customers right now. We have to understand where they are in their change/recovery life cycle. Are they still prioritizing cost containment? Have they moved on to revenue generation? What are the cashflow issues they are managing? What’s their ability to manage risk given current circumstances.

As it’s always been, our success has little to do with what we sell, but how we help our customers achieve their goals and objectives. If we are to be successful in our own companies’ revenue generation/recovery efforts, our engagement strategies have to focus on what’s important to the customer now.

Do you know what your customers care about now, do you understand how their priorities and strategies may have changed in just a few weeks. Do you have solutions that help the customer address their highest priority needs today?

In some sense, we face an opportunity rich environment. Where inciting customers to change may have been a huge issue in the past, change is mandatory for everyone in every industry, in every geography. Our challenge in today’s environment is to find those customers that have prioritized the problems we solve as their most urgent.

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