COVID-19…….so much has changed. And we’re all evolving our strategies as we head towards that worn-out term – the New Normal. The challenge for all selling organizations is to examine the durability and viability of their business models to make adjustments and often major overhauls. But wait. Before you virtually assemble your management teams on Zoom calls for the cursory SWOT analysis updates, looking through the internal microscope, reach for your telescope instead. Because the answer isn’t found by looking in but by looking out. Looking out at your clients but more importantly, looking out for your clients. Client-centricity – it’s never been more important than right now.
Think about it. Your transportation logistics client that generated 80% of their business from the airline industry has seen Avianca, Compass and Virgin Australia simply disappear. Their opportunities have vanished from the pipeline. Revenues from current contracts have ended. The accounts no longer exist. But Jet Blue and American Airlines, also your client’s customers, are active and pursuing cargo business to replace their crushing passenger revenue losses. A huge shift in their business. Knowing this, shouldn’t you be strategizing how to help them and their rapidly shifting definitions of success?
What about your wellness client that has built a vibrant business through a core competency in serving law enforcement agencies? Countless police departments are their customers and that business remains robust. But a new market has emerged for them with other front-line professionals – health care workers. Nurses, doctors and other hospital personnel now depend on your client for the same value they’ve delivered over time to law enforcement to help them face their new challenges. As with your transportation client, the definitions of success have changed. And focusing your strategizing on your accounts’ changing initiatives is so much more relevant than analyzing your own internal operations. At the end of the day, it’s not about you. It’s about your clients.
To understand how to convert this mindset into actions to take now, let’s ponder a B2C example. Think about one of those chain hotels where you stayed in the recent past. Remember business travel? After your stay, you received an email, thanking you for your business. And a survey was provided, asking for ratings in categories like food quality, staff friendliness, shower cap durability and others, all listed by the chain’s marketing department. But on the night of your visit, your room was next to the elevator and across from the ice machine. You didn’t sleep a wink. But what about room noise? It wasn’t one of the survey’s boilerplate choices. Shaking your head, you deleted the email and made a mental note never to stay there again.
Client Satisfaction. I’ve learned a lot about it over the years – its do’s and don’ts. The hotel example clearly highlights one of the don’ts – the type of tone-deaf B2C mistake we’d never see in the large account world, right? Wrong. Truth is, with major accounts, selling organizations often seek to gauge client satisfaction following the same clueless, boilerplate strategy, completely missing the mark.
Sandler Enterprise Selling advocates a very different strategy. Instead of providing treasured clients with pre-selected criteria that may have nothing to do with their specific issues, Client-Centric Satisfaction has the clients define success. Their perspective – not yours. A suggested list of potential success factors is provided, such as communication, responsiveness, knowledge transfer, etc. But the actual choices are made by the only party that matters – the client.
Let’s set aside for a moment our recent tumultuous times and consider how Client-Centric Satisfaction works in typical circumstances. At the outset of a business relationship, sales and delivery team members meet with a new client to understand success in the client’s customized terms. Think about the moment. The business is won. The contract is signed. The client’s goals are now yours as well. Honesty abounds. Had you asked earlier in the pursuit what was most important to the then-prospect, you’d have been told about lower prices, free services, etc. But when prospects become clients, a transformation occurs. The “partnership” becomes real. And shared goals create bonds between organizations and people. Lasting bonds. If you don’t ask, though, you’ll never know.
When you do know how your new client defines success, though, you dramatically increase your chances of achieving it. And that knowledge also seeds account growth as your proposed solutions for future opportunities will resonate with everything you learned – everything that’s most important to your client.
How about now, in this turbulent time? If you already follow Client-Centric Satisfaction, go get your clients’ definitions of success refreshed. Be assured, they’ve changed. But if this process is new to you, put it in play and build on the clean slate. Meet with your clients, virtually or otherwise, and discover their new dynamics of defining success for the future. Then and only then, work on your internal organization.
Because, of course, it’s not about you.