In 2014, Do We Know How to Get Closer to Our Customers?

by Mike Sleppin

Mike Sleppin's specialty is creating significant positive change in people-intensive industries whose business environment is changing rapidly. For example, since 1989, Mike has worked with firms touching every facet of the construction, transportation and printing industries as well as the other professional groups (Architects, Accountants, Engineers, Commercial Insurance etc) that service those niche markets. As a highly experienced, global business traveler, he helps small to mid-sized organizations understand and plan for their successful expansion into global markets. As a result of Mike's body of work, organizations achieve the goals that are important to them on a regular and consistent basis.

symbiosis: the intimate living together where such association is of mutual advantage, interdependence

If you could develop symbiotic relations with key customers, would that result in 2014 being the best year of company or organizational growth since the enterprise was started? If you believe that this would likely happen, read on.

What solutions could you provide that would result in competitive advantage? Let's take a look. Symbiosis is a real partnership when you transfer skills that you have to a customer who would benefit, but lacks those skills. IBM is today a software firm rather than a firm that manufactures equipment. Their revenue and their success comes from providing answers to customers who don't have nor know how to obtain those answers. Often the customer does not even know what questions to ask because that is not internal to who they are. The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. Until we begin to notice what we do not notice, we will never change or improve. This is where you come in!

How much time do you spend at customer locations to see first hand where you could be adding value? The primary reason IBM is so successful is that they began to look at their technology through the eyes and ears of the customer. Instead of focusing on selling your products/services, focus on risk-based goal guaranteeing partnerships. Create an intimate alliance that allows customers to know your firm very, very well so that they can begin to understand how you more than your competitor can be of real service and value. You, I and the lamppost buy successful outcomes. None of us cares how much someone knows. I don't go to a doctor because the doctor has a degree in medicine. I go to a certain doctor because he/she can prevent or cure something that I want prevented or cured. Once your customer develops this new relationship with you, that customer will not see you as a commodity any longer. That is the beginning of a symbiotic relationship.

A challenge for you is to develop systems and capabilities within your organization to:

  • Earn trust from customers who believe in your expertise.
  • Learn to cross function among your departments in order to successfully collaborate with a customer.
  • Know how to capture what a customer needs.
  • Have the consultive skills needed to uncover and develop opportunities that translate into revenue and profits.

If you are thinking and wondering about how prepared your organization is surrounding the above issues, begin a conversation with some of us now.

My last challenge to you - in the next sixty days find out from ten of your customers what is on their wish lists for 2014.