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How to learn to know your customer

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Many sales seminars or client team coaching sessions discusses how a salesperson should know his/her customer. It is easy to say but what is it in practice? Of course, consisting a wide arrow of various dimensions.

When can you really say you know your customer? And prove it, e.g. with following:

-  The research I conducted of your business claims that you are losing XX k€/annum because of too much waste in production since you have not implemented this/that practice to your production line.

-> I have a solution, based on smarter usage of materials, for you to cut material losses initially to half, later-on even to zero. Hence having a considerable positive impact to your annual profitability of Z%.

- You could increase your production output by YY% together with predictive maintenance as your production could be kept up and running without unplanned interruptions.

-> I have a solution for you to plan predictive maintenance and replace parts on the fly before they broke to avoid nasty surprises in production. Securing higher client satisfaction and lifetime value.

-  You could foster your current order to cash process from 45 days to 14 by removing recognized bottlenecks because of slow manual work in the corresponding process.

-> I have a solution for you to automate your entire client contract signing and invoicing processes together with digitalization capabilities. Leading to improve your financial stability significantly.

There are numerous similar examples. The key point is that how to gain this information.

What I have found beneficial in key account management, in addition to use other sources of information extensively, within this context is following:

1.      Whenever you will have a next planning workshop with your client team, invite a key stakeholder from the client organization to open your planning day. Prepare him/her to tell your team how they value your capabilities, what is the position of your logo in client´s business processes and brand image.

Consider mutually what actions would help you to move to more favourable position, probably even to preferred partnership. To my experience also clients like this kind of co-operation a lot because it is targeting to mutual benefit.

Desired outcome: you do not need assume a thing, but the client stakeholder gives you direct feedback and your planning day is more productive. Common hackathons are on top of mutual co-operation with clients.

2.      Ask for an opportunity to spend a day in client´s premises to make yourself more familiar with client´s business objectives by discussing with different stakeholders.

Desired outcome: you will have better opportunity to position your capabilities to help client, leading to gain trust which always is a great asset in sales. There is potential opportunity to conduct some service design to serve the client even better, too.

3.      In addition to client´s business stakeholders make yourself also familiar with client´s sourcing guys. They are often thought to be challenging but establishing connections of trust with them will leverage you with very useful information, too.

As sourcing often is a link between businesses and service providers you might get beneficial insight regarding client´s value drivers/business requirements, enabling you to success in purchasing cycles better.

Desired outcome: leading to position your capabilities higher in client value chain. Most likely helps you to decrease the impact of harsh price competition as well.

We can always debate if this or that out of these hints is not doable or client may not grant you an access to do it. Further, is this too simple? Or, no news, we have heard this already.

Again, underlining that I have found these methods to be very helpful in solution sales. According to hands-on experience they still seem to work in 2019.

The key point is that never assume because of trying to find a shortcut but interact with the client to gather true insight to leverage your relationship further.

Wish these take-aways help you further when speaking about “know your customer”.

People buy from people they know/trust.

 

Jari Makkonen

The writer has over 20 years’ experience in consultative human to human sales roles in ICT industry.

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