—Jeroen De Flander
The Idea: What do leaders in the B-to-B world want from their service providers? With ninety percent of sales professionals not creating value in the eyes of the customer and fifty-seven percent of the buyer’s journey completed before a sales leader has a conversation (Corporate Executive Board), it seems that the only answer is co-creation. More than half of buyer-brand relationships are transactional or consultative, not strategic partners. Has the bar been raised and you are not as relevant as you think? You’re already late.
Recently, I was leading a forum meeting and I laughed out loud when one of my guest retail executive speakers stated, “If you can’t get additional meetings with me or my team, you may not deserve them.” He reminded the group that, to be successful, you must offer an uncommon insight such as an emerging competitive threat or a truly unique product that captures a buyer’s attention. You must speak with them very early in the buying process, prior to them setting their buying criteria.
Influence occurs when you learn to discuss, frame and solve the customer’s business challenges early in the sales process.
The Seven Behaviors
I sat down with many of the top food, mass, discount, and drug leaders and merchants, asking them what they value in their top partnerships and what distinct characteristics are brought to the relationship.
- Enter every customer discussion with insatiable curiosity;
- Offer uncommon, emerging insights;
- Courageously push customer’s boundaries;
- Address “what’s next?”
- Embrace speed, simplicity, and agility;
- Uncover hidden problems the customer is unaware of but has an impact on them;
- Have authentic discussions, focusing on shared values & their unstated needs.
Only one of the seven behaviors is purely focused on product. Over fifty-three percent of customer loyalty is a result of the “who” and the “how,” not the “what.” Talent and authenticity dominate customer relations.
The book, The Challenger Sale, reminds us that forty percent of top sales leaders use a “Challenger” style: they possess a different view of the world, love to debate, and are not afraid of nudging their customers. They possess a deeper understanding of their customer’s business than their competitors.
So how do we create value for our customers and clients?
Have “bigger picture” discussions early and often. Make it a routine to share emerging trends that will affect their world. Be proactive in sharing a potential roadblock or obstacle before the customer confronts it and help them prepare for a problem before it arises. The highest performing leaders want to understand the changing world and what could disrupt their business.
What are the competitive threats that are applying pressure or risk to their business? These types of insights are the formula for creating value with your partners.
—Miyamoto Musashi, legendary Japanese swordsman