Simon Sinek's recent LinkedIn post stated: “100% of employees are people. 100% of customers are people. 100% of investors are people. If you don't understand people, you don't understand business.” Almost 100K people liked that post, including myself. I have proof of that and I am going to tell you how.
Many years ago I was a software account manager and I took over one customer in the banking industry. Their contract with our main competitor was about to expire. So they asked us to make an offer to replace the software solution they had in place. The competitor too was making an offer to renew the contract, which of course would have been less expensive and less complex than replacing the whole system.
We knew that they had some stability problems with the current solution. We released some new features that we decided to show to the customer to convince them. So the key account manager organized a lunch with the customer, our technical team and myself. It was my first meeting with my new customer.
The customer had a strong technical background and 30 minutes into the meeting we were already in some deep technical system stability and features discussion. We hoped this would convince the customer to choose us. Suddenly it became clear to me that some crucial information was missing. So I asked the customer: “I understand that sometimes the solution in place is not stable. I understand the technical problems this might cause. But what impact does this have for you Mr. Smith?” And voila, we had our compelling reason to act!
He told us that there have been some changes in the organization recently and that at the moment he only had one person in the team. An unstable system in the bank could mean losing bank transactions. This translates to losing thousands or hundred thousand dollars. So to avoid that, he rebooted the system every day and ran some tests. This process took one hour of his time. Every morning. In a two people team.
Asking this question provided us key insights to build a customized and compelling offer for the customer. Even more important, it was key to build trust and rapport with the customer. Fast forward three months, the customer decided to buy our solution and replace the competitor one. When I went to get the contract signed, the customer told me: “ I am convinced about the technology but most of all, I have a partner who understands our needs and I can trust”.
So next time you are talking to a customer about their business challenges stop and ask them: "What direct impact does this have on your day?". It might be the beginning of a strong and fruitful partnership.