I was speaking with the CEO of an investment holding company and we were discussing the importance of listening to your customer vs. just talking at them about what we think is important.
His holding firm owns many companies, including a sign making company (Dunkin Donuts is a client). He was talking about his sales staff going straight for the sale, focusing on their signs’ benefits, quality, etc. Meanwhile, the CEO keeps preaching “listen to the client first.”
Sometimes, the buyer already understands your value, but they can’t afford the full price that year. Sometimes, capital purchases go into a capital budget and that’s approved by another department, or the capital expense budget is maxed out for the year. What if they could lease the sign? Then the expense goes into an operating budget and that portion of the budget has budget room, or does not need approval.
The sign company does not get all the cash up front, but they get ongoing revenue. That model makes them more money over time. So it’s a win/win for the sign company and the client. His team just had to listen to the clients’ problems.
To do this properly, you must design configurable systems and processes that can morph to meet clients’ needs in a way that you can be successful also. Really, solving a client’s problem is not the hard part most of the time. The hard part is truly knowing what problem a client is trying to solve. How do you get there? By listening, really listening to a client’s needs and constraints. It’s in the listening, where the real skill in sales and account management lies.