Today, I want to give you a glimpse behind the scenes with customers. In particular, I want to begin to elaborate on the concept of Past Value Delivered (PVD). Several weeks ago, I spent two days with a buying client helping them evaluate key suppliers in light of their evolving business strategy and changes in market direction.

The evaluations consisted of looking at past scorecards as well as evaluating the supplier’s potential suitability for the future direction of the firm. During the evaluations, one thing that struck me was how often some version of the question “How much have we spent with XYZ supplier and what did we get?” was asked. The other thing that stood out was how often that question could not be readily answered – especially by the individual who either brought that supplier in or was currently charged with managing that supplier. These certainly made for some uncomfortable moments.

You might assume that since this topic is a mantra of mine that I was the one asking the question, but you would be wrong. The question was typically being asked by a customer stakeholder who was not a champion of the supplier. I would even characterize many of these individuals as strong detractors or even enemies of the supplier. Think about that for a minute. How often after the sale do we consider the likely behavior of those individuals who are not champions of our company or our products and services? How are we managing this issue after the sale, and more importantly how are we protecting our champions?

After the sale, your champions are placed at great political risk (sometimes even career risk).  After all, they were the ones who “went to bat” for you and your firm and they are the ones who will most likely be held accountable for any underperformance on your part. Of course you and your firm will be the first ones “taken out and shot” for any major shortcomings or issues. That’s the nature of the relationship between a customer and supplier. The point is that after the sale we have a responsibility to look out for our champions and to do everything in our power to make them look good.

It continues to amaze me how quickly some sales reps will forget the customer and the champions that were nurtured during the sale after the business is won. The excuse I hear most often is that “I’m paid to sell and now I need to move on to the next one”. That’s all well and good, but who is paid to ensure the customer’s success after the sale and the success (both business and personal) of the champions? If your answer is the obligatory “everyone in our company is responsible for customer success”, then I submit the reality is that no one will be truly held accountable.

I’ve seen champions who were left high and dry by suppliers that quickly turned into serious and committed detractors – even to the point they would never consider giving business to that particular supplier again. And yet, for the most part, this is entirely avoidable. Assuming you sold to a customer’s outcome(s), mutually developed success criteria (value dimensions) for the outcomes, your task after the sale is to deliver on those outcomes – and to formally communicate and get credit for it.

The key point to keep in mind is that the credit is not just for you (although this is key to your future sales with that company), it is also for your champion. When this is done well, I’ve seen customer champions take your Past Value Delivered proof and present it to the CFO, CEO and even the Board. This not only demonstrated how “smart they were” to choose you but how effective they were in using you to advance the business agenda of the firm.

Now you have a champion for life!  In my next blog we’ll explore exactly what is this thing called Past Value Delivered (PVD) and how do we effectively communicate it after the sale.