I’ve spent time with a number of organizations over the past 3 months that are taking planning for 2017 very seriously.
So seriously, in fact, that they are charting intentional courses for becoming more strategic to their most important customers by:
- Assessing their value portfolios with these accounts to determine how to maximize value creation and co-creation in 2017
- Aligning their objectives with the objectives of these strategic customers, to ensure that there are planned synergies between the parties
- Assessing their relationships with the key customer stakeholders to ensure that there is agreement on how to expand and optimize strategic relationships/partnerships
- Planning proactive growth with these customers that will be predicated upon mutual success between the parties and a commitment to grow together.
Why are these organizations making such a significant commitment to proactive planning with their customers going into 2017? Because they’ve realized that becoming more strategic to their most important customers is never accidental, and can only be accomplished through focused, disciplined and intentional efforts.
Based on my experience, planning the future with your key customers is most likely to be successful when supported by the four impact zones that we define in Chapter 10 of Beyond the Sales Process. When planning is focused on the following – everyone benefits, including the salesperson/account manager, their organization and yes, even the customer:
- Creating and Co-Creating Value
- Far beyond differences in products and solutions, value creation and co-creation is all about exceeding customer expectations after the sale, with the ultimate goal of customer delight
- Internal and External Alignment
- What we’re referring to here is the ability to align and connect with internal/cross-functional team members, and then extend this alignment to a state of team-to-team alignment with the customer
- Authentic, Trust-Based Relationships
- I’ve never heard a customer (no, not one) say that relationships with their suppliers’ salespeople and account managers weren’t important – relationships are and will continue to be important to customers, no matter what you might read on the Internet
- Mutually Profitable Growth
- Growth refers to more than just top-line revenue. Your customer might also include improving their competitive position in a market, doing business more profitably, and acquiring industry knowledge and best practices as part of their growth equation, and these are all things that you can potentially impact.
The question that the proactive planner has to introspectively ask going into the New Year is whether planning a successful future with the customer will yet again result in the all-too-familiar data-repository (masquerading as a plan to grow), or whether now is the time for a more contemporary and effective approach to customer planning. The choice is yours, but don’t take too much time deciding which path you will take – the clock is ticking and your future with your customer starts tomorrow.
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