Except for young children and occasionally teenagers, nothing keeps the CEO of a B2B company awake at night more than worrying about customers and the customers of customers. Why? Because an enlightened CEO knows his/her company’s customer loyalty is ultimately driven by the passion and purpose of employees to positively impact the loyalty of the customers’ customers.
For example, the CEO of a technology company selling branch systems to community banks worries about the commercial customers of the banks and whether their experience with cash collections is positively impacted by the expanded capabilities of the new branch system. The technology CEO wants her company’s purpose-driven culture to be focused on helping commercial banking customers improve their cash flow and loyalty to the banks. If the technology company can penetrate the customer-to-customer value chain, they will be rewarded with high levels of loyalty and the customer lifetime value that accompanies it.
What Is Your “Sales Purpose”?
What does the CEO’s focus on the customer’s customer have to do with the subject of selling to executives? The answer is that CEOs (and other executives you are targeting) are hard-wired and motivated to act on any change that positively impacts the loyalty of customers. This insight into the executive persona provides a roadmap for a sales person wanting to get noticed by customer executives.
If a sales person wants to improve their credibility and selling outcomes with customer executives, they need to embrace a “sales purpose” centered on the customers’ customers. They need to demonstrate this “sales purpose” in selling interactions with executives. This will require a sales person to extend the value chain, going beyond traditional notions of customer advocacy and customer centricity.
Your Customer’s Customer May Be Inside Your Customer’s Organization
The customer of your customer may not be a third party. For example, in our business of helping sales teams in a formal learning environment improve their executive-level selling skills, our customer is usually the VP Sales and our customer’s customer are the members of the sales force. As such, our Company’s passion and driving “sales purpose” is to accelerate the professional careers of sales people by improving their value to their current and future employer. Our client success stories have little to do with our direct customer, the VP Sales. Rather, our success stories focus on the personal testimonials of sales people, the customer’s customer. We capture examples of how they elevated their executive-level selling skills and increased their personal value as a member of the sales profession. For our Company, their stories are a powerful rallying force reconfirming our “sales purpose”.
What Can You Do to Make the Customer of Your Customer Your “Sales Purpose”?
1. Identify your customer’s customers – For some sales people this will be easy. For others, especially those who haven’t spent much time thinking in this dimension, this might be harder. If you are unclear, you can always ask your customer. However, a better way to demonstrate credibility would be to add this step to your pre-call preparation routine and discover it on your own before engaging the customer executive. If your customer is a public company, check out their SEC form 10K; in Item #1 (Business), public companies are obligated to describe the nature of their external customers. If a customer produces revenue in excess of 10% of total revenue, they must disclose the name. Another good way to discover this information is to check out their archived press releases on their website. Many companies brag in press releases about recent customer wins, naming names in the process. If your customer is a private company, you can research a publicly-traded competitor and assume they have similar customers. You might have to validate this assumption directly with your customer, however. If your customer’s customer resides inside your customer’s organization, you should make sure you’ve captured the entire cohort. Often we find that sales teams have failed to identify the entire scope of internal customers.
2. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer’s customer – How can you expect to demonstrate the impact of your solutions on the customers of your customer if you don’t understand their world? If your customer sells to consumers, consider buying their products or signing up for their services. If your customer sells to other businesses, lobby for your company to “drink its own champagne” and use your own solutions. If your customer is a retailer, ask if you can spend a day in a retail store observing interactions with retail customers. If you customer’s customer is an employee of your customer, spend time with them on the job or survey them.
3. Rally your account team around your customer’s customer – If you are a member of an account team, consider making the customer’s customer a central theme of your account planning process. Leverage the perspectives and insights of your account team to construct a plan for making the customers of your customer the driving “sales purpose”.
4. In selling interactions with executives incorporate insights of their customers and demonstrate the impact of your solutions – Review your messaging (e.g. prospecting emails/voicemails, 1:1 conversations, written proposals, product demonstrations, and formal presentations) to make sure it reflects your new “sales purpose” centered around the customer’s customers.
5. Document the impact of your solutions on the customers of your customer and summarize them in success story testimonials – Nothing builds stronger loyalty with existing customers than demonstrating the impact of your solutions on their customers.
Start today to make the customers of your customer your driving “sales purpose”!
- What else can you do to make your “customer’s customer” your personal sales purpose?
- What are your other “sales purposes”?