When you think about customer engagements, there are only a few elements that you could execute with excellence. Of course, one component that is non-negotiable is the extent to which you prepare for customer meetings.
There is a saying, “Every powerful and successful customer meeting is three parts preparation and one part execution.” Some salespeople walk into meetings believing that their experience will help them tackle all situations. Others go to meetings with a laundry list of items they wish to discuss or multiple objectives they wish to accomplish. A good salesperson will identify 1-3 items that they wish to achieve with excellence. Planning leads to prioritisation, and prioritisation leads to focused meetings that then drives results. After all, it is often said that “A person who defends everything, defends nothing.”
All the preparation that you do to meet customers should align to specific outcomes for your customer meeting, which is where the Rule of One comes in. One aspect of customer engagement that you should be aware of is the fact that we do not measure progress through the seller’s actions, but rather index progress through the customer’s actions, reactions and perceptions.
When you look at the Rule of One in the context of customer meetings, you should start thinking about Acknowledgement of Value, Provision of Insights and Generation of Opportunities. These can be remembered with the mnemonic AIO (Acknowledgement, Insights and Opportunities). In other words, the Rule of One ordains that in every customer meeting, you must gain one acknowledgement, provide one insight and create one opportunity.
Acknowledgement of Value
When you say it, it is Sold; When the customer says it, it is Gold.
When you engage with customers, the value of your product/service offering needs to be connected to the measurable and monetizable value for the customer in their own business terms. The art of the customer conversation is to get the customer to calculate the value.
Think about your customer conversations – Is your existing customer acknowledging the measurable and monetizable value of what you have proposed? Have they realised that value? Has that value met or exceeded their expectations?
A typical customer conversation needs to cover four areas of value:
a. Value Proposition – This is where you would start for a new customer
b. Value Proof – This is how you will prove that you are capable of providing the value proposed
c. Value Purchase – This is how your customer will reward you for the confidence that they have gained in your value proposition
d. Value Realisation – This is what you will constantly measure in every customer conversation for existing customers.
Needless to add, acknowledgment of value realisation by your customer grants or provides you the right to propose newer projects that can expose greater value.
Provision of Insights
Are you generating a set of proactive insights that can help your customer think differently about the opportunities that are hidden in plain sight?
Whether you are the sales professional or a member of the customer success team, your role is to provide valuable insights to your customer. Data analysis and regular research into their business and industry will help you identify trends, implications and benchmarks that can help you craft new value propositions.
Think about what the customer can do differently in the form of newer products, business models, niches, services and markets. This can help them transform their business and guide all of their future investments and actions.
As a salesperson, the best insights that you can provide are those which the customer has never thought of before. You need to ensure that your insights are connected to customer implications and potential KPI impact. This impact needs to be measurable and monetizable.
The ability to connect your insights to implications and impact will provide your customer with an effortless experience. Also, the insights from your end will help you stay distinct and differentiated in the customer’s eyes. Needless to add, your insights should be all about how your customer can run a better business.
When your customer learns something new from your conversation, their appreciation of the quality of time spent and the value they have received in that time increases. In other words, I call this ROTI (Return on Time Invested). Your proactive insights should maximise your customer’s ROTI.
Generation of Opportunities
Are you and your customer jointly working towards opportunities that will transform their business?
When you lead with insights and connect the dots to implications and impact, the natural outcome is a set of opportunities that you could pursue along with your customer. Every customer meeting that is punctuated with insights will lead to opportunities in your pipeline. You might choose to do a preliminary qualification of these opportunities with your customer by revalidating their impact and assessing their priority for investment.
For successful customer meetings and to make the Rule of One a reality within your organisation, consider the following steps:
1. Use the Rule of One as a simple checklist to assess the quality of your preparation and execution in every customer meeting.
2. Rather than do everything yourself, consider involving your larger team to build your insights. Take help wherever required since you may not have all the information or skills required to achieve all the objectives of the Rule of One.
3. Seek out experts in each of the three areas of Value Creation, Insight Generation and Opportunity Creation.
4. Role play, if possible, to evaluate your extent of situational fluency (your ability to be flexible and aligned to the customer conversation).
5. Develop a panel of experts who could role model these behaviours in customer conversations and leverage these experts as mentors to other sales teams.
6. Develop a repository of insights, implications and impact, by industry, so that your entire sales team can leverage the goodness. This will cut short the time required to develop insights.
7. Develop a review rhythm where the Rule of One becomes the primary checklist for meeting customers and debriefing outcomes.