When I work with businesses both big and small, there is a fundamental business development issue that is omitted by salespeople and implementation teams. I am by no means saying ALL salespeople or implementation teams do this, but I experience it enough that I feel it is important to try and resolve the problem.
Please, don’t get defensive, just hear me out before you start commenting. Read to the end, because in normal fashion I’m going to share the problem with you but I’m also going to share a possible solution as well.
The Business Development Problem
Alright so let me give you a typical scenario:
A company or individual shows interest in a product or service you provide. A salesperson, team or point person is assigned to contact the client. They have meeting after meeting, demo after demo and in some cases, a request for proposal (RFP) is completed. Promises are made and contracts are signed. Whatever your process, the potential customer becomes a customer after a period of wooing.
Then reality sets in…
The potential customer is now a customer and it’s time to get down to business. Your customer is assigned an implementation team (or implementation begins) and all of a sudden things change.
Promises aren’t actually broken but there are “caveats” that weren’t shared during the wooing period (i.e., extra expense for a feature or service that was never shared with the customer).
Business Development and Understanding Your Customer’s Needs
The question I have is do you really LISTEN to your customer? You know sometimes things are said between the lines that you don’t hear unless you are really paying attention. Do you identify what your customer really needs and why? Or, are you just trying to meet your numbers or make a sale?
Do you blow through customer discovery or do you ask pointed and direct questions that help you complete your own requirements document for the customer? Are requests made for the customer’s requirements list or how they plan to change their processes with your service or product? Do you ask them to explain their needs in detail?
You see it is my experience that often times the customer only knows what they THINK they want, not necessarily what they actually want or need. You know the saying, “I know enough to be dangerous”? Well, that is often the case with most customers. They may think they know but they really don’t. And trust…that may sound a little demeaning but it is not meant to be that way.
Identifying and Acknowledging The Specialist During Business Development Meetings
You see customers look to vendors and consultants as the specialist. They know their product, service and industry inside and out. They know why what the customer is asking for will or won’t work for what the customer is trying to do. That isn’t to say they know EVERYTHING, but my expectation is they know more than the customer does.
On the other hand, the customer knows their business and business needs inside and out. They (or someone in the organization or environment) typically know how the current product is implemented or how the environment runs. They know how they want this product or service to change their processes for the better.
Do you see how both sides are important? Well, as the business, if you aren’t gathering requirements on both sides you have a major leak or issue that needs to be addressed and in my experience, most of you probably have this issue.
Meeting and Exceeding Expectations During Client Interactions
So here’s the reality of the situation, at the end of the engagement you as the business are going to want a review, you are going to want a recommendation or referral. If you don’t meet the needs of your customer how likely are you to get that?
Isn’t it more likely that if you listen, meet and exceed the needs of Customer A that you will get that review or referral and it will be a positive one? And isn’t it just as likely that you will learn how to meet and/or exceed the needs of customers B, C and D too in the process?
How Lessons Learned Aid in Business Development
So what I encourage your team to do (sales and implementation team alike) is to sit down and do what we like to call an internal lessons learned session. Review your last 5 – 10 completed engagements.
During this session, you need to discuss what went well and what went wrong with each client or engagement. Be honest about how you as a team/business feel it could have gone better. This should be an added step to the end of all current engagements as well. Ultimately, we want to get you started on the right foot now.
In addition, you or your Client success representative (the person who follows up with the Client) can get feedback from your Clients (if they didn’t already) and relay it to the team for this discussion. There is nothing like hearing feedback directly from your Client.
As you begin to add this step to your workflow, I encourage you to have Client feedback gathering sessions without the team on the call or in the meeting. It is inevitable that your team may feel defensive if the feedback received isn’t good.
I’d recommend you limit the call to your success representative or for smaller businesses the business owner. Make sure to give your Clients the ability to freely voice their concerns. Now, if you are a solopreneur offering services, consider gathering the feedback via a survey or hire a VA to contact your customer. If you need to gather the info yourself, make sure you keep your emotions in check.
What To Do With The Gathered Lessons Learned Feedback
Once you have gathered the feedback, review their comments with your team. Making sure to address facts separately from emotion in the feedback. [Note, I will talk about how to use emotional intelligence with your customers in a later post.] After discussing the facts with your team, if necessary, follow back up with the customer. Let them know how you are going to address the issues in the future. Finish the call thanking them for their feedback and their business.
The key thing to remember is to not get caught up in “he said, she said” with Clients, even if they aren’t accurately depicting the situation. Additionally, being right is not the focus. The focus is to gather useful feedback so you can correct issues. You want to ensure you have met and/or exceeded the needs of your customer.
Now, we all know there are some cases where the customer isn’t right and there is nothing you can do to fix it. In that case, take the lessons learned from the experience and move on.
I hope this article has helped you think about holes you may have in your client-facing processes. If you need help developing your process flow for Client engagement and follow-up, set up a discovery session so we can discuss your needs and get your processes nailed down.