My friend Rene Voorhorst and I were having one of our periodic conversations. He’s been leading his team through a remarkable journey. We were talking about an initiative focused on deepening the strategic insights and value with their major customers. He relayed a story from one of his people.
This salesperson was in a meeting with a customer, they were talking about a business strategy the customer was looking to implement. The salesperson was contributing his ideas about the key issues, risks, alternatives the customer might consider. At the end of the meeting, one of the customers came up to the salesperson, “How long have you worked for us?”
The customer knew he was a salesperson and didn’t work for the customer, but the way the salesperson worked with the customer was remarkable. The customer viewed the salesperson as an integral part of their team, a person interested in their success, not just getting an order.
The salesperson focused on helping the customer think differently about their long term strategies, he wasn’t focused just on a deal–in fact this conversation was so early in the process, it wasn’t clear what the deal might be or if there was a deal.
The salesperson’s involvement was deeply valued by the customer. They invited him to participate in many projects, projects around their future product directions, how to improve manufacturing processes, how to create better customer experiences for their customers.. They actively sought his ideas and help, both because he had a very different perspective and because the customer knew he was focused on their success.
The customer didn’t view the salesperson as a “seller.” They viewed him as a partner critical to their success.
Rene and I looked at what it meant from a “seller perspective.” This salesperson had been working on the account for a number of years, changing the customer engagement from a transactional approach to being considered a valued partner. What did it mean from their business point of view:
- Pipeline had more than doubled in the past year. Since the customer was proactively engaging the salesperson in providing business insights, he was discovering more opportunities, more easily.
- Average deal value was more than 5 times greater. Rather than working on smaller transactions, the opportunities were more comprehensive and much larger.
- They had always had high win rates, but the win rate increased by 15-20%.
- Revenue from this customer was growing 50-70% a year over the past 3 years, rather than less than 10% in the prior years.
- Many opportunities had virtually no competition. The customer wouldn’t think of considering another supplier because of the value the salesperson brought them. They knew the salesperson was driven by their success and wouldn’t propose something that didn’t contribute to that. Yes, they evaluated the solution, but often without considering other alternatives.
It’s a stunning story and performance. It causes us to reflect, “what if more salespeople behaved the same way.”
Customers are looking for help, not to be sold. Customers value insight about their business, ideas/observations that help them achieve. Our path to success is a result of helping our customers succeed. We actually work for our customers!