Brilliant Influencing: Customer Success


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How do your customers really define success?

As good corporate citizens, I’ll wager they want to help their organizations address its critical issues, be they improving quality or speeding production or lowering costs or whatever the desired business outcomes. When analyzing choices to deliver on those business outcomes they will consider all relevant options in the shape of products or services or consulting as to how they meet technical requirements.

In addition, they may have tools in place to help anticipate differences in value, using ROI calculators or TOC or NPV. Rationally, when making decisions, they choose or recommend the highest value choice—the technical option that best addresses the needs of the business.

The decision-making process outlined above is logical, rational, and difficult to argue with. And if one of the options being considered is hands-down superior to the other choices, the deal is done.


However, in most situations, it is not how things really work. Unless you are a flat-out subject-matter expert on the options being considered, with years of experience and at the leading edge of the industry, you will probably see little if any difference among the top two or three choices under consideration. They will all appear to meet the technical requirements, and thus have a decent chance of delivering the desired business outcome.

This is where the third leg of the customer success stool tips the balance of decision making. With all top options appearing to be equal in value regarding business outcomes, people involved in the decision-making process shift their emphasis to what’s in it for them. Their personal wins become the prime success driver they use in making or influencing the decision.

For each key player involved in decision making, the process goes like this:

  1. Are the desired business outcomes defined? If yes…
  2. Do top choices appear to meet the technical requirements? If yes…
  3. Do the business outcomes of these top choices appear to be similar? If yes, logic goes out the window and the gentle breeze of human emotions wafts in…
  4. Which choice will give me my biggest personal win?

Brilliant Influencers

Good influencers possess strong customer acumen. They first package and then communicate how their offerings (products, services, consulting, training, whatever) will deliver the business outcomes desired by customers. All good.

However, brilliant influencers understand the criticality personal wins play in how customers define their success. Their message of persuasion addresses all three sides of the decision-making triangle and emphasizes how the individual will get what they want from their recommendations.

PONDER POINT: Personal wins trump business outcomes (almost) every time.

James Alexander, EdD
James "Alex" Alexander has a doctorate in Human Resource Development, and after a dozen years in corporate life has spent more than two decades helping product companies build brilliant services businesses. Alex researches, publishes, advises, trains, and speaks on transforming good services organizations into high-performance services machines that create loyal customers, drive sales of services and products, and dominate the competition. He has written five research studies, four books, and over 150 articles, and has spoken, consulted, and trained in 25 countries.


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