This is the final installment to follow up the original “WHY SELL TO CUSTOMER’S OUTCOME?”
As I stated in the original blog, it should come as no surprise to any long term readers that I consider this (delivering and getting credit for value) to be the most important aspect to managing value. While many sellers believe selling, negotiating and booking the business the “show”, to customers they are simply a necessary evil. I know of zero key decision makers at customers who are measured and rewarded for issuing a PO. Rather they are measured and rewarded for delivering outcomes of a positive nature – and this is what they “hire” the selling organization to help them accomplish.
If we have done a good job of selling outcomes and negotiating the “right deal”, then the first key task after winning any deal is to conduct a formal kickoff meeting with the customer. The kickoff meeting should include all relevant stakeholders from the buyer and the seller and the primary objectives of this kickoff meeting are as follows:
- Finalize and mutually agree to the outcome(s) the customer wants to achieve
- Define how success will be measured (metrics of value)
- Determine when the customer wants to achieve the outcome(s)
- Establish interim milestones along the way
- Put in place a formal communications protocol to report on progress (may include a scorecard)
Done correctly, the kickoff meeting will formalize and start the process of delivering and getting credit for the value. The bullets above are the basic elements of an account plan after the sale. If your business objective is to both keep the customer and grow your business with them, then a formal kickoff meeting is not optional. Done correctly, this kickoff meeting will align both parties on the “right” outcomes, establish the metrics (value) associated with achieving the outcomes and formalize the cadence of communications throughout the length of the contract or engagement.
Aside from what I’ll characterize as standard “account” or “project” meetings, the most important meetings as part of the communications plan are customer business reviews (CBRs). These are entirely separate meetings with the key decision makers (the ones that signed the check). Effective CBRs are typically done in person, however I have seen very effective reviews conducted over the phone or via online meetings. The key thing is that these meeting actually happen. These are not simply touch points to check in but rather are formal meetings with the following objectives:
- Ensure you (the seller) are delivering the expected value and that the key decision maker(s) give you credit for doing so
- Understand what is changing at the customer and what is important today (identify new potential opportunities to upsell and cross sell)
- Create a compelling reason the key decision maker(s) wants to meet with you again
Let’s look at each of these objectives. First and foremost, delivering and getting credit for value is essential for any business that wants to retain customers and reduce or eliminate churn. It is also a prerequisite for future upselling and cross selling. After all, if you didn’t deliver the value on the initial purchase, what makes you think the customer is the least bit inclined to buy more from you?
Understanding what is changing at a customer allows the seller to identify new potential opportunities to upsell and cross sell. It is pretty much a fact that if nothing is changing at a customer, there will be no new sales opportunities. Think about that. I’m often amazed at experienced salespeople that don’t grasp the import of this concept. In short, new sales opportunities are hiding “in plain sight” – just look for what is changing with the customer and their business.
Finally, we want to use the CBR as a means of creating a compelling reason to meet again. Perhaps it is a major future milestone or we agree to investigate a recent change at the customer and come back to present our findings as well as some options for addressing that change. It is key that the reason(s) we are meeting again is focused on that key decision maker and what he/she wants to achieve.
Companies that execute effectively on delivering value after the sale (and getting credit) don’t need to worry about losing customers. In most cases they will be virtually “bullet proof” from competitive attacks and will enjoy a long term, mutually beneficial relationship!