Winning When Your Customer Does

Bob Schultek

Bob Schultek

Early in my career, one customer abruptly ended a meeting when I spent more time talking than I did listening.  He said,

“We’ve been meeting for more than 15 minutes and you have not yet asked a question about my business, my goals or my problems.  I don’t need your products – I need solutions.  Come back when you can add value to our discussion.”

This was a tough but productive lesson.  I knew the benefits of my products, but realized that I had no idea how this customer defined “value” or how he would evaluate it.  At first, I felt that my preparation for the meeting must have been lacking.  Eventually, I realized that my time in front of a customer should be spent learning about his or her business, and discovering their goals and needs.  The customer will specify what “value” means, enabling me to then evaluate available competencies and propose the most effective solution.

Leveraging your competencies to produce strategic value for customers necessitates that this value be defined in the language of money, the language of management.  Sometimes goals must be translated from the language of things (items, data, time) into the language of money.  This enables you to validate that your customer’s investment in your solution produces the value you promised and achieves the goals you committed to reach.  A revenue growth target percentage should be converted into a dollar increase.  Improved profitability should be measured at a specific line in the  P & L(Gross Profit, Operating Profit, Pre-Tax Profit) and translated into a dollar improvement.  A time savings should be converted into a dollar savings using a standard hourly rate.

Ensure that your proposal includes metrics that connect your compensation to their goal achievement.  Shared rewards (portion of your compensation paid upon results), annual volume discounts and relationship bundling allowances are all examples of this strategy, demonstrating your commitment and accountability.  This is the “anti-commoditization” strategy!

You win when they win.

Producing promised value to customers strengthens your differentiation, increases selling productivity, and accelerates revenue growth as your customer relationships become more enduring.

 Do you know how your customers define “value” when working with you?

 How do you demonstrate to customers that you win when they win?