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As a first blog post, Steve and I thought that providing you with the introduction from the book would, in fact, be the best introduction. We’ll cover many other topics in future posts.
co-author Dave Stein
ASK A CEO to name his or her organization’s most important asset and you’re sure to hear “our people,” followed closely by “our customers.” Everything else takes a backseat, and yet few books are written about how these two most valuable assets interact, engage, align, collaborate, innovate, and create value together.
Much has been written about sales, much has been written about marketing, and much has been written about customer service. But we see remarkably little about how the world’s top companies are going beyond the sales process and leveraging proven strategies before, during, and after the sale—not just when the customer is buying, which is where the majority of sales books tend to focus. Perhaps this is because, in order to write such a book, you must gain entry into the actual companies and their customers, and that’s not easy to do. Or perhaps it’s because, on the supply side, we have historically had such a one-dimensional focus on the sale that there hasn’t been much appetite left for when the customer isn’t buying, which is most of the time. Or perhaps it’s because so much of what is currently being written about sales is being produced by those whose approaches are new and unproven, or were hatched as far back as the 1970s.
Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: business-to-business (B2B) commerce has changed dramatically in the last decade, and there’s no going back. Basing your customer engagement and sales best practices on yesterday’s approaches simply doesn’t work any more. Top-performing salespeople and account managers have learned that in order to be successful, new and more holistic approaches are required for engaging effectively with customers, developing and winning new opportunities, and growing and sustaining their customer relationships before and after each sale.
Beyond the Sales Process focuses on the frontline of engagement with customers. It is specifically intended for salespeople, account managers, their managers, and sales leaders, as well as others who have responsibilities and pressures associated with developing and winning business, and those who are tasked with extending and expanding their relationships with customers. In the case studies that follow each section, you’ll learn how top companies engage differently and grow successful customer relationships based on collaboration, innovation, and mutual value creation and co-creation. These case studies provide an in-depth perspective on how industry leaders across the globe engage, win, and grow with their customers. Adecco Staffing U.S., BNY Mellon, Hilton Worldwide, Honeywell Building Solutions, Merck/MSD, Panasonic Corporation, Securian Financial Group—Group Insurance, Siemens AG, and Zurich Insurance Group have generously provided us with their stories.
While this book is largely intended for those who want to consistently be at the top of their professional peer groups and are willing to consider new ideas to help them succeed, it will also be of value to the managers and leaders who motivate, coach, and support the efforts of their teams. Thus, this book is for those customer-facing professionals who need to drive their performance to the next level of effectiveness.
Before, During, and After the Sale
Take a moment to think about the success you hope to achieve over the next 12 months. Identify a customer that you believe will significantly impact your results. Choose wisely, because you will reflect on this customer many times as you “try on” the concepts, best practices, and tools that this book offers. Also think about your network of personal relationships within this customer organization and identify someone who is involved and invested in doing business with you. Once you have selected your customer and your individual contact, you’re ready to move forward.
Most of us consider the length of a typical work year to be about fifty 40-hour workweeks, excluding vacation and holidays, which totals about 2,000 hours. With this in mind, think about your customer and consider this question: What percentage of the customer’s total work time is spent actively buying from you? Here are some potential responses:
- 25 percent (500 hours/year)
- 10 percent (200 hours/year)
- 2 percent (40 hours/year)
- 1 percent (20 hours/year)
What percentage most closely matches your actual experience with your customer? We’ve asked this question many times, and found that the responses are nearly always 3 and 4. Why? Because even when you have a successful relationship, it is likely that your customer spends less than 2 percent of their time (only 40 hours per year!) actively buying from you. In other words, your mindshare with your customer is minuscule compared to how they spend the vast majority of their time. Unless you change this, your odds of becoming important or strategic to your customer are virtually nonexistent.
Your customer doesn’t care about your sales training, sales tips, sales forms, sales processes, sales strategies, sales plans, or your sales quota attainment, because that’s not what’s important to them. Yet far too many salespeople and account managers expect their sales tools and techniques to miraculously win business for them, when the real problem is that they only show up when the customer announces an intention to buy. How can you expect your customer to respond favorably to you when you’ve been out of sight and out of mind? In this book, we demonstrate that when you pay careful attention to the other 98 percent of your customer’s time, you become strongly positioned to impact that highly leverageable 2 percent—when they’re actively buying. By interviewing many of the world’s most successful salespeople and account managers and capturing the best practices of these top performers, we offer a proven approach to engaging with customers that spans the entire relationship. Customers today want more effective engagement with their most important suppliers. This book provides proven strategies and tools for determining what you need to do and instructive examples of how to do it.
How This Book Is Organized
This book is divided into three sections that document twelve proven strategies that top performers use to drive success before, during, and after the sale. The Engage/Win/Grow model (Figure Intro-1) will be your guide as you advance through this approach, and the case studies that follow each section will validate what we have presented. Coaching questions at the end of each strategy will help you assess your progress and effectiveness along the way.
Figure Intro-1. Beyond the Sales Process: Twelve Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World.
What Matters Most to Customers
If you talk with enough customers (and we have), you realize that the things that are important to them today are vastly different from what many organizations and the people who sell and market to them seem to think they are. Customers expect more, and they deserve it. We’ve asked some of the world’s most successful companies what their customers expect in terms of value, alignment, relationships, and growth. Their responses are consistent, profound, and decisively contradict the assertions that customer relationships are no longer important. Customers don’t want to be coerced, controlled, or otherwise pushed around. They value authentic relationships based on transparency, competence, credibility, and trust, and they’ll pay more for these qualities, even in today’s difficult selling environment. We’ve asked hundreds of customers about their experiences with vendors, suppliers, and partners, and their feedback provides a compelling case for stronger alignment, collaboration, innovation, and mutual value creation in this exciting new era of customer engagement. It’s time for a change of mindset, a change of attitude, and a change of heart regarding how sellers and buyers engage and do business together. If you’re interested in reaching the next level of success in our customer-driven world, this book is for you.
Steve Andersen and Dave Stein
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