When a customer states some generic business goal, do you just say “thanks”? Examples of some pretty generic business goals could be: increase profitability, optimize manpower, improve customer satisfaction or mitigate risk. Or, do you ask more about what that means specifically, such as how it affects the business outcomes? An easy rule of thumb is that if customer goals sound too generic, then they usually are.
Like everything else, there are always many nuances to any situation. When I coach teams, we try to look at an organization, at all levels, from the customer’s point of view. We always aim to identify the customer’s key business drivers, their approaches to achieve them and key priorities. We try to identify who in the organization cares, and we spend a lot of time discussing what we have learned at different levels of the organization.
But, in many cases, the information they gather is so generic that it could pertain to anyone or any organization. The customer gives them information, and the sales rep says “thank you” and checks the box.
There are many reasons customers will not get specific about their business goals. It could be that the sales rep:
- Is not asking people at the right level in the organization
- Does not have the relationships or credibility to get that level of detail
- Is not asking for the right information and is taking the information at face value
- Is getting a good old plain brush off from the customer
Most customer information is readily accessible, but typically the information that is published about the customer’s business drivers is quite generic. Why is knowing more about what the customer is trying to achieve so important? The real question is, how can you “increase profitability” or “improve customer satisfaction?” If the customer’s goals sound too generic, then we as sellers will be limited in our ability to help the customer achieve their desired business outcome. We have to put on our detective hats and be immensely inquisitive.
I always say that if everyone wore a sign around their neck stating how they got paid (because no one gets a bonus for “increasing profitability” with no measurement or timeframe), then it would make our job as sales people very easy! Think about it – do you really know your customer
Janice Mars, principal and founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more than 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results.
View my LinkedIn profile
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.