Ask Your Customers
Your existing customers are your very best resource to find out what value you bring. Tell your customer you need help understanding the real value of your offering and you’d like a chance to learn their perspective. This builds your relationship with customers at the same time it gives you a chance to learn an incredible amount of invaluable information.
Most people are scared to ask their customers about their value. I know it took me awhile to get up the guts to do it but when I finally did, it was a real eye-opener. I had no idea that certain “little” things I threw in at no charge were extremely valuable to sales leaders. Not only did these discussions change my value proposition, but they also changed my offering and my own self-perception.
Anytime you ask customers for input, you open yourself up to hearing the not-so good things too. If your customer is upset at your company (or you) for any reason, take notes on the issue and promise to resolve it as soon as possible.
If your customer says negative things about you personally, listen and ask questions. While this is not what you wanted from this meeting, it is critical data that can help you improve.
Make sure you don’t get defensive, make excuses, pass the blame or tell your customer they’re wrong. If you do, your customer will shut down fast and your credibility will be at risk. Most importantly, be curious at these meetings. Explore all your customer’s answers in depth to really learn the value you provide.
Example: If your customer tells you that communications improved because of your work — find out what it meant to them.
- Did they spend less time settling arguments?
- If so, how much less time?
- What was the value of that extra time?
- Did they use it to accomplish more? Like what?
- Because less time was spent bickering, what decisions were easier to make?
- How has the company benefited from those decisions?
- What additional profits or cost savings were realized from those decisions?
Explore … Explore … Explore. This is how you uncover the strength in your value proposition.
Below are questions you can ask customers to determine your true value proposition.
Remember – your customers haven’t thought much, if at all, about the value you provide. Therefore, the responses you hear may be somewhat vague and initially seem like little help in clarifying your value proposition.
Don’t jump on your customers and demand they quantify your value. Remain conversational and curious. Gently poke and prod your customer to explore different areas. People need and deserve time to think things through – and agitating them by demanding hard value answers right away won’t help at all.
Have you ever seen any old Colombo movies or TV reruns? If so – remember how Colombo, a wily detective who knew a whole lot more than he let on, slowly and softly kept asking questions until he found what he was looking for. Emulating this behavior during these customer meetings will have a high payback for you.
Before you meet with your customer, write down the various problems you think your product or service solves for them. Next write down the business impact of these problems.
Finally write down the value you think your offering provides. Take this list into the meeting; use it to prompt you to explore the full-range of your potential value to the customer.
To get better data, customize your questions to your product or service offering. Consider the questions below as guidelines for this meeting.
● What value did my service/product/solution provide to your company?
- Where do the benefits show up?
- How did that help your bottom line?
- What improvements did you realize?
- How did it impact performance?
● What were the three most important benefits you received as a result of our product/work together?
- Why were these valuable to your organization?
- What cost/time savings did you realize?
● What did our solution enable you to do that you couldn’t before?
- What else? And how did that help your area?
- And what else?
- What is that worth to your organization?
● You said that working with us enabled you to reduce/increase __.
- Why was that important to you?
- How would you quantify its value?
- What other areas in your company received benefits because of our work together?
- Tell me more about those areas.
● How have things been better since we worked together or you implemented our system?
- What impact did it have in ___?
- How did it affect __?
- What were the ramifications for __?
- What was the effect on __?
- How would you quantify the value of these improvements? (Note: This is where you probe for specific areas based on the list you developed.)
● How did our solution help you achieve your goals/objectives?
- What’s the value of that?
- What problems did it alleviate?
Ask these same questions to more than one person in your customer’s organization. Talk to people in different areas and in different positions. They each have a unique and highly valuable perspective. Sometimes you’ll hear something totally new from one person that will lead you to a much stronger value proposition.
Strengthen your value proposition by looking at the results attained over time. Annual savings are always better than hourly, daily or monthly savings.
Check in next week for part 7!