Strengthen Business Relationships
Conversation by Conversation
By: Arlene Johnson
It happens to us all…an important colleague or customer meeting with “less than desired” results.
With a little planning and a partnering process used with each important business conversation you can replace that sinking feeling with the comfort of knowing that you’ve advanced approval for an important internal project or customer opportunity, or at minimum discovered where more work is needed to move past an obstacle.
Are You Prepared for The Conversation?
Suppose you are preparing for an important conversation. With an internal or external customer… beware of planning or conducting a solution-focused meeting. With less than complete customer knowledge and if not “target on” to your customer’s buying situation and concepts, your meeting outcome could easily result in project or buyer delay or an uninformed refusal.
On the other hand, planning and using the Four Customer Agreements defined below will help you gain the critical information needed to build customer-focused recommendations, move the internal project or customer’s buying cycle forward and distinguish you as a valuable solutions provider! Treat these agreements as gateways to the next step. If you don’t get agreement at any point, you’ll need to go back to the previous step.
Try Asking for These Customer Agreements on Your Next Call
1. The customer agrees to discuss a Business Value Statement (BVS).
Used at the beginning of each customer phone call, meeting, or presentation. The BVS is a statement to discuss what might be important to the customer’s business situation. You’ve done your homework. You understand their business objectives, responsibilities and concerns. When the customer agrees you understand his issues, it promotes interest for an in-depth business discussion and reduces resistance to your well planned questions!
Tip: The BVS is a value statement from their point of view. It’s not about you, so you’re not presenting your conversation objective or solution statement at this point in your conversation.
2. The customer agrees to your understanding of their needs and buying concepts.
Used to summarize and gain agreement on the customer’s key concepts (what they wish to fix, accomplish or avoid) and their solution image (what they think will address their issues) prior to making any recommendation. The information gained will help you leverage your unique solution strengths and position you to overcome any obstacle that could prevent you from moving forward.
Tip: Planning good questions to gain critical information or verify assumptions is well worth the pre-call planning time…especially when on a joint customer call with a team member!
3. The customer agrees to your recommendation or solution.
Used to gain agreement from the customer that your unique strengths and recommendation fits hand in glove with their issues (which you have verified) and image of the best solution. Gain this agreement prior to discussing which next step in the project or opportunity would be appropriate to take.
Tip: If there is not enough customer information to make the recommendation statement truly customer-focused, evidenced by quantifiable customer benefit statements…stop, go back and ask more in-depth questions prior to asking for a next action commitment.
4. The customer agrees to next actions.
Used to gain agreement on your pre-planned minimum or best actions to be taken by you and the customer as a result of the conversation. (For example: the customer agrees to the next meeting with their boss; or the customer agrees to fund your project or list you as the preferred vendor.) These actions need to be appropriate to where you are in the buyer cycle and to the business relationship. This ensures a partnering relationship and moves the project or sales cycle forward.
Tip: Appropriate minimum actions which you have requested, but the customer has not agreed to could be a “red flag” for your project or opportunity! You may have missing information or need to include another key influencer involved in the decision of your project or business opportunity. Action commitment agreements are more easily gained when the customer has agreed to the first three Customer Agreements.
Planning and conducting important conversations with the Four Customer Agreements demonstrates to your customers that you understand and provide high value solutions that resolve their issues better than any competitive option. These agreements promote conversations that reduce price sensitivities, differentiate you and your solutions and strengthen your important business relationships.
That’s a Promise!
Arlene Johnson, CEO of Sinequanon Group is a speaker and author working globally with companies to achieve revenue and market growth by developing cultures of change leaders and optimum sales performance. Her book, SuccessMapping® provides individuals and organizations with a map of best decisions and actions to ensure key change and business objectives are efficiently achieved.
Contact Arlene to discuss how she can work with your organization to increase profitable sales and map relevant change to directly impact your bottom line results.