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Do You Really Know Your Customers?

August 05, 2016 - Article

Jennifer AnayaBy Jennifer Anaya

Nothing – not even low price – trumps relationships when it comes to winning and keeping business customers. This is not just wishful thinking. I hear it often, including in words of wisdom from a CIO who spoke at CompTIA’s recent annual member meeting. It’s good advice for solutions providers to take to heart, especially as they shift to selling cloud, digital and managed services that customers can’t see or touch.

Don’t set it and forget it, or your customers may forget about you. Instead, pay extra attention to relationships — what you mean to them, and what they mean to you.

And don’t just depend on longevity of relationships. If you’re like most solutions providers, your average customer has been with you for seven to 10 years, says The 2112 Group. Certainly, that’s enough time to get to know them, right?

Not unless you can answer these questions about each customer:

  1. What do you know about their business? What does the company sell? Who are their customers? Why do customers buy their products and services? How will their company continue to deliver value going forward? It’s important to understand each customer’s business on a deep enough level that you can help them leverage technology to meet challenges and opportunities today and in the future. And remember, their business is evolving, too. If the last time you paid attention was a year or two ago, a lot may have changed.
  2. Who do you know in the company? Do you talk only to the IT director, or do you also know the C-suite leaders — CIO, CEO, CFO, CMO?  Do you speak regularly to line-of-business leaders? Do you know the purchasing agents? IT managers are no longer making decisions about technology on their own; other business and technology users are driving and/or influencing the process, so you need to get to know as many stakeholders as possible.
  3. Do the business decision-makers know you? If they were asked in a blind survey to name their top technology provider, would they list your company as No. 1?  If you are not your customer’s go-to provider, you’re probably also not part of the long-term technology decision process. You could be cut out all together or brought in at the eleventh hour when parameters, pricing and preference are already set. Ideally, you want to be the trusted adviser who is influencing your customers’ plans as they are being made.

If you don’t know your customers quite as well as you thought, don’t sweat it. Instead, get to work using these simple tactics:

(see next page)

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