In the current COVID-19 global health crisis, companies are faced with unprecedented challenges as they strive to maintain their businesses and anticipate a constantly changing business ecosystem. If you’re responsible for growing your company’s revenue, either through a sales or an account management role, the panic of deal slippage or limited revenue opportunities may feel unavoidable. To keep your goals on track and to uncover new opportunities, focus on establishing a customer-centric strategy.
With a customer-centric approach driving stronger relationships with executives, sellers have reported:
- Accelerated sales cycle by more than 10%
- Increased deal size by more than 10%
Customer centricity has only increased in importance as businesses navigate COVID-19. Not only are your customers wading through uncertainty, challenges, and resource limitations on a daily basis, most are concerned about the future – asking, “How will priorities shift in the months to come?”
Putting your customer first requires a full understanding of their goals and their challenges. Specific to the current crisis, recognizing the shifts and challenges your customer is facing not only allows you to anticipate their needs, but also to provide strategic counsel as they consider the best path forward. Customer-centric alignment and collaboration, especially in your most strategic accounts, goes a long way in establishing goals, identifying solutions, and strengthening relationships with your customers during challenging times.
Account Intelligence is the Core of Customer Centricity
Developing customer insights isn’t a one-time, static exercise. It is an ongoing effort that should be an integrated part of your client development and account planning strategy. Sharpening your industry knowledge, knowing your customer’s competitive positioning, and keeping a constant pulse on internal goals and initiatives positions you to propose solutions that drive your client’s success.
Companies that don’t have a program in place to operationalize and maintain customer intelligence and those who, subsequently, fail to align their organization around their clients’ evolving needs are the most at risk during this period of economic uncertainty.
In our recent webinar with Finlistics, the solution for financial analytics that power insight-led sales, over 50% of the participants said they were unable to align their solutions to the clients’ business goals. Approximately 30% describe their sales and relationship development practices as primarily a one-sided pitch centered around their products’ features and functions.
Business success in the COVID-19 and post COVID-19 world demands a commitment to a customer-centric growth strategy. If you find yourself scrambling to piece together last year’s business plans in a world where clients are frequently, iteratively changing and adapting, focus on building clarity and collaboration around these three pillars:
1. Know Your Clients
Account planning is more than just a strategic exercise. While sales and account management teams evaluate opportunities based on their revenue potential, it is important to remember the human and relational foundation of partnership development. Customer-centric account and opportunity planning activates your company’s culture to truly put the needs of your clients and partners above everything else.
The foundational element for a true customer-centric organization is knowing the individuals that make up your key accounts. Each individual has a unique set of challenges and needs right now – many of which were unanticipated when they developed their 2020 plan. They may be fearful and trepidatious about hitting goals, wondering how they hold back and still move forward. Others may find that these circumstances present an opportunity or a demand for exponential growth and may now be grappling with the challenge of meeting a spike in demand.
Can you synthesize their needs and walk alongside them or are you in the dark about their focus and needs? You have to understand what each person really needs and cares about in order to drive success.
Stay engaged with your key stakeholders, remind them that you’re by their side for the long-haul and that you will adapt to meet their changing needs. Map these strategic plans collaboratively. Offer clarity, perspective, and support that is personalized at an individual level.
2. Know Your Colleagues
Sales reps and account leaders who continue to nurture interpersonal relationships in your key accounts are the externally facing driver for customer-centric selling in your organization but value-driven customer-centricity requires engagement and focus at all levels.
Bringing all departments into the customer-centric fold is the only way to truly operationalize customer-centric account strategy and drive revenue growth. The best ideas may not always come from the sales team. Perhaps your marketing team noticed some new market trends, your customer success team identified additional client business needs, or your product team is inspired to develop a new offering. Cross-functional engagement uncovers hidden revenue by shattering organizational silos and reframing revenue growth as a company-wide initiative and responsibility. Empower the entire organization to drive client success through transparency.
As you develop an understanding of what your clients need, your own organization needs real-time internal transparency and processes that are specifically designed to live alongside these evolving client partnerships. Does your team leverage centralized and adaptable technology to enable account planning where remote and diverse stakeholders can rally around the needs of your clients? Are there processes in place to ensure that teams are building upon the efforts of others? Can you leverage existing relationships to build new networks for support and collaboration?
3. Know Your Collaborators
This is a sentiment shared across disciplines, industries, and communities right now but it is so foundational to moving forward in every capacity that it is worth reiteration.
Take the time to know the people around you.
Whether that is a client, colleague, or even competitor, collaborators are popping up in unexpected places as we tackle the challenges of a pandemic. Think creatively and cross-functionally for solutions to the many unexpected challenges that we’re all facing right now and share those ideas transparently.
When you take a personal and customer-centric approach to acquire and growing strategic accounts, you not only discover how your products or services are helping them succeed but more importantly, you discover what they need to drive their business forward in the years to come. Once you become customer-centric, the opportunities to add value will increase and, in turn, will drive value for your organization because you’re able to align your products and services to meet unanticipated business needs.