How to Have High-Value Conversations with Your Customers
What’s the best way to prepare for and execute successful sales meetings that move opportunities and relationships forward? These must-dos will help you make an extraordinary impression, accomplish multiple key objectives, and keep the door open for future contacts.
Customer relationships are hard to establish and maintain. That’s why it’s important to ensure that every encounter you have with your customer results in a high-value conversation—from your customer’s perspective.
At Critical Path Strategies, we coach sales teams on how to prepare and execute high-value customer conversations, using this mantra: Selling is a series of conversations resulting in joint commitments to common goals. To understand this mantra, let’s break it down into bite-size pieces.
Selling is a series…
Research tells us that it takes north of seven touches to get the first initial commercial sale or engagement. Your touches must be designed to demonstrate enough credibility and intimacy so that someone will invest in the first relevant conversation. You need to know your customer’s business drivers and find the highest-value linkages between your company and your customer.
Must-do: These days investments of any consequence are made by a network of people on the buying side. You know their names—decision makers, approvers, influencers, users. It takes continuous interaction—and lots of repetitions—to frame the underlying value of what you offer and to effectively deliver the value message across your customer’s organization. You must be crisp on the net value you can provide and align that message to each individual to get traction.
Conversations are informal exchanges of views, ideas, or information. Exchange suggests that the conversation is two-way—not a one-way pitch. It infers that two parties might ask each other questions to determine perspectives. It also allows for the concept of collaborating on ideas and information.
If you are to have valuable conversations with your customers, you need to get into their shoes to plan the conversation. Where are they today? What are their aspirations? What are they doing about it? Once you are in the meeting, you can begin to assess the value that you could bring to your customer.
Must-do: Conversations get started and flourish because of great questions. Before every meeting, identify at least three questions that will get you talking substantively about a specific topic you know would be relevant to your customer.
resulting in joint commitments…
A good conversation for a salesperson results in the customer and the salesperson both committing to an action that creates momentum. You need to propose some sort of plan to proceed and create accountability—and not just your accountability.
Must-do: Soon after your conversation, take the time to summarize the agreed actions, owners, and target timeframes. It’s important to then share your recap with your customer and your team.
to common goals.
Here is the magic sauce—alignment to common goals. Your goal is to discover the short list of relevant value intersections with your customer. If you articulate them well and line up on the most important intersections, how will you impact their business?
Must-do: If you can answer the following questions about your customer insightfully, you are well on your way.
What are your customer’s critical success factors?
What are their value differentiators for their customers? Articulating how their customers validate value, how it is measured, and how it is recognized is a great gift. And the value to you is tremendous.
If your customer is successful and executes well, what does that look like?
How might you work together to lay out a plan for success?
Will this alignment translate to your success as well?