Customer-Centric Communications


Share on LinkedIn

One of the all-time classic TV ads was the one for Wendy’s hamburgers where elderly Clara Peller lifted the bun, squinted at what she saw, and then bellowed, “Where’s the beef?”

Great ad. Good question. It’s one that senior executives often ask themselves when they see canned presentations or boilerplate proposals from sales people. And they typically react by dismissing the sales person or tuning out the presentation.

Think about the typical sales presentation, for example. Does this sequence look familiar?

  • A title slide prominently featuring our logo and maybe a beauty shot of our headquarters or our biggest selling products
  • An agenda slide—that never mentions the client
  • A company overview slide that talks about such fascinating facts as (a) how many employees we have, (b) how many locations, and (c) the number of years we’ve been in business
  • A map slide showing all of our locations just in case you missed it on the previous slide
  • The dreaded “tombstone” slide—showing all of our customers’ logos lined up like the marble monuments in a cemetery
  • Our “vision” slide
  • And sixteen more slides containing similar dreck

Where’s the beef, indeed!

So what kind of content do we need to provide to make a senior executive feel they’re getting some substance?

First, our messages need to conform to what Paul Grice called the “maxims” of communication, by which he meant the foundational elements:

Accuracy: Do not say things you know or suspect are not true. As soon as the audience catches you in an exaggeration or a lie, your credibility is shot. Shut down the Powerpoint, because you’re done.

Conciseness: Get to the point. I don’t need to see every screen in your app or watch you click on every icon. I basically just want to know what you have, whether I need it, and whether it’s worth getting.

Relevance: Don’t present your services to me, the head of a hospital, the same way you did yesterday to the general manager of a factory. Our businesses are different. Even if you don’t think those differences matter, make the effort to use my language and show my specifically how your solution will work in my environment.

Clear: Every business has its own jargon and acronyms. Yes, you’re used to yours, but that doesn’t mean your customers will understand them. Deliver your message as clearly as possible. Otherwise I will conclude that what’s hard to understand will also be hard to implement and hard to use.

In today’s sophisticated business-to-business environment, you need to deliver content that is compelling and that addresses what the customer cares about—making money or (in the case of public sector customers) fulfilling their mission. In fact, to win your customer’s trust and justify a higher margin than your competitors, you must demonstrate three kinds of knowledge:

First, you have to know all about your own stuff. People don’t want to listen to somebody who’s unprepared or ill-informed. They want to deal with experts. That doesn’t mean you lead with your product knowledge, but it has to be there as foundation on which you build.

Second, you have to know a lot about the customer’s business, what they make or provide, how they operate, what their goals and objectives are, what they value, how they are approaching the market, and anything else you can uncover. In particular, focus on what has changed in their world, what similar organizations have experienced, and what challenges they may be facing.

The third thing you need to know? How your customer business interacts with its customers. The relationship between your customer and their customers is the nexus of value. That’s where profits are generated. If you can pinpoint ways to improve that interaction, you’re delivering solutions and innovations that can translate directly to the bottom line.

So that’s what content is all about. It’s not enough to just provide information about your products and services. You need to observe the four maxims of effective communication. And then you have to leverage what you know into “working knowledge”—insight that creates value.

To streamline this process, many of the world’s leading organizations have turned to Qvidian’s sales enablement tools. If you’d like to talk about how they can help you, contact us today.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tom Sant
An internationally known proposal writing expert, Tom Sant has been called "America's foremost practitioner of proposal writing" by the American Management Association. He's trained thousands of sales people and executives to write winning proposals, deliver effective presentations, and manage complex communication projects in a career that spans more than 25 years.


  1. It feels like the ‘third thing you need to know’ is easily the most important. It also tends to receive the least attention, until customer focus becomes an enterprise priority. Isn’t the real goal of customer-centric communication to create personalized perceived value, and doing so in interesting, engaging, and even enjoyable ways?


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here