Customer Engagement: Shift Your Focus

Customer Engagement

Last month I attended the Business Marketing Association’s 2010 Annual Conference.  Titled “Engage,” the conference presented innovative ways B2B marketers are engaging not only with customers and prospects, but also with employees, sales forced, and channel partners.

All too often, sales and marketing folks become so focused on our particular end game (getting the lead, making the sale, etc.), that we lose site of the customer’s end game, assuming we ever even bother to ask.  This approach may work if you are selling standard products on price, but how many of us are doing that?  Most of the companies we talk to are looking for ways to rise above that equation, providing value-added “solutions” to their customer’s needs.  But do we really engage customers deeply enough to realize what those needs are.  Do we know enough to demonstrate how our particular solution will impact the customer’s bottom line?

Looking through my notes from the conference, and having a month or so to digest some of what I learned, here are a few quotes and snippets that may trigger ideas to you become more fully engaged with your customers and prospects.

 “Our mindset must be different.  It’s not about social media or Twitter.  You have to ask yourself if you are deepening the relationship.  Is your mindset really on the needs of the customer? Change and enrich the conversation.  Cultivate imagination-driven conversations and stretch the customer’s thinking.”
Fred Wiersema, Business Strategist, ISBM Fellow and author, The Discipline of Market Leaders and Customer Intimacy
    
“You need to understand how your customers make more money, and how you can help them make more money.  Then you need to determine how you can capture some of that value.  If you focus on the customer’s bottom line, and can make a connection between your value proposition and that bottom line, you’ve uncovered a differential value proposition.”
Keith Pigues, Senior VP and CMO, Ply Gem

“In professional services, the trust factor of the sales representative or consultant is every bit as important as subject matter expertise.”  
Andrew Bosman, Executive Director of Marketing, Navigant Consulting, Inc.
 
“Challengers are generally the top performers.  They become the customer’s advisor.”  
Linda Meenan, CMO, Wildman Harrold
 
“There typically isn’t a large gap in customer satisfaction scores between ‘loyal’ customers and ‘switchers.’”
Mike Schultz, President, Wellesley Hills Group

“Provocation-based selling brings your best people in at the beginning to tell the prospect what their problems are.  Challenging prevailing wisdom can shorten sales cycles and tap into funding outside normal budgets.”  
Mark Wilson, VP Corporate Marketing, Sybase Inc.

“There are now The Four E’s of Marketing: Engage, Educate, Excite and Evangelize.”
Jeffrey Hayzlett, Thought Leader and sometimes Cowboy at The Hayzlett Group

We used to say “the customer’s always right,” but we all know that’s no longer true.  It probably never was.  But until you’ve become fully engaged with a customer — having proven to them that you understand their business and having demonstrated a desire and capacity to improve it – you haven’t earned the trust it takes to tell them they are wrong.  Sure you could tell them your opinion, but if you haven’t taken the time to ask them the questions, do you really think they are going to listen to your answer?  

Next time you meet with a customer or prospect, see if you can conclude the meeting without having said a single word about your company.  If you spend the time learning about their company, there’s a good chance they’ll ask you back to learn about yours.

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