For most, bringing on new customers has been a little harder over the past year. Not surprising, many companies are deploying harvesting strategies – trying to maintain and nurture opportunities with existing customers. For strategic account managers this means being more attentive to customers’ needs and issues. Really something we should do at all times – good economy or bad. It all translates into listening closely to what customers are saying and responding with products and/or services they will value.
In discussions with salespeople from some of the world’s best companies, I often find that they are so eager to deliver something to the customer they often miss the mark because they’ve not adequately diagnosed the problem or need. I think part of the issue here is in how we listen and engage customers in the right conversations. People have a natural tendency to only hear and relate to things that are important to them…SAM’s included. It’s just human nature. So while in-person, phone, and email conversations between customer and SAM are important, I think balancing these conversations with objective assessments of customer requirements and your company’s performance to these expectations is vital.
How do we do this you ask? The good news is that it’s probably already happening. You just need to join the conversation. Opportunities lurk in the depths of the lesser understood social media layer of our information ecosystem. Our customers are talking in places like Twitter. Some have even created their own communities in Ning. They’re openly discussing their needs and how you and your competitor’s may or may not be meeting those needs. No longer do you get unique insights from your customer on the golf course. Social media is making companies more transparent and markets even more informed. It’s time for SAM’s to get an early read on customer needs in these new forums. The added benefit is that it’s your customers talking to each other about the things that are most important to them – without the interference of your own perspectives and priorities. It’s pure unstructured input directly from customers. Definitely something that needs to be a part of any company’s customer insight strategy.
Senior Vice President