Can You Stand In The Shoes Of Your Customer?
When you meet a Senior Executive (CxO) you really only get one chance to make a good impression. This article is dedicated to helping you maximise that critical opportunity.
Our recent research with Senior Executives, suggests that:
- Successful CxOs exhibit common traits
- CxOs have a common set of checklists, when they meet vendor’s customer facing staff for the first (and subsequent) time(s).
- They all think in a similar manner when it comes to meetings, presentations and Executive Summaries.
Successful CxOs exhibit the following traits:
- They are business performance-oriented: metrics relating to the perceived benefits are very important to CxOs
- They process information very quickly: highlights are more important than the detail
- They understand the value of people in delivering change: they want to understand the value you individually bring to the table
- They typically focus on a limited number of key issues
- They relate to the Big Picture: you have to describe the outcome of your activity, not the physical detail of getting to the outcome
- They have fewer constraints and Lateral Thinking: they will consider good ideas, however ‘off the wall’ they may first appear.70% of all good ideas emanate outside of their organization
- They back their own judgement, making quick decisions often based on less than complete information
- They are short of time: plan for 30 minutes even if you think you have been allocated more and use the time effectively
- They want business conversations not technology pitches.
As a vendor you need to exhibit the following traits:
- Professionalism: being well organised and well informed, building rapport through good communication skills
- Mirroring: an ability to match the CxO’s style and pace, talking their language not your own
- Responsibility: the demonstration of initiative, proactivity, ownership and commitment to joint success
- Honesty and integrity: critical components of trust, combined with the ability to challenge or say ‘No’
- Business curiosity: the ability to probe, listen actively and hypothesise, injecting ideas, possibilities and choices
- Benefits-orientation: offering proposals which have clear content on:
- The What – the result
- The How – your capability
- The Who – relevant successes with other customers (including your role in the success)
- The Risks and their mitigation
- Commitment to a genuine partnership approach: the investments you and your company are prepared to make, your ability to expand their network and your desire to share the management of change.
A common message from all Senior Executives emerges: “You have to establish and build a relationship first, before we will take your proposition seriously.”
The Call to Action
- CxOs do more business with people they like and trust: if you don’t pass the personal test you are unlikely to win the business
- There is no silver bullet, but preparation comes close: if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail
- Use the 4 Cs: it is a simple structure to help you prepare for executive meetings and consists of:
- Context – the hook into the CxO, based on the public domain research that you must do prior to anything else
- Capability – showing that your organisation has the ability to effectively deliver a solution, based on your research, your discussions and matching the capability gap in the customer
- Credentials – the value that you have helped other clients achieve – your success stories, which must include metrics
- Call to action – what do we want to happen next, as a result of this interaction, ideally demonstrating commitment on both sides
- Finally, look pleased to be there. If they had all the answers, you wouldn’t be there in the first place!
For more advice on stepping into your customers’ shoes and how to make the best impression, call us now on 01494 716 688 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.