Every sales professional is obsessed with making the numbers.

Meet another sales person and there’s that secret language we use in speaking to each other. Where’re you at? How are you doing? What’s your year looking like?

To non sales people, these are different, perhaps slightly philosophical questions. But to every sales person, it’s about the number, quota, or our attainment against monthly, quarterly, annual objectives.

In our quest to “make the numbers,” we often miss an entirely different set of numbers that need to be made. If these numbers aren’t achieved, it’s unlikely we’ll ever make our numbers.

It’s the customer’s numbers! It’s their performance objectives, KPI’s, goals, metrics. It’s how their success is measured, it’s what determines whether they get a good performance evaluation, whether they get their bonus, the promotion. It could be whether they keep their jobs or whether their companies survive.

Where are they at? How are they doing? What are their years looking like?

Do you know your customers’ numbers? Do you know how their performance is evaluated against those numbers? Do you know where they are at against those numbers?

Knowing these numbers are keys to your success. If they aren’t making their numbers, they could have a high sense of urgency for change, for doing something that helps them make their numbers. If they are making their numbers, they may be happy, things might be good enough. But how are they doing against the competition? What opportunities are they missing, could they be growing? If they are blowing the numbers away, what are you going to do? Why do they need you?

Knowing their numbers enables you to position your value in a context that’s meaningful for them. How will their numbers improve by implementing your solution? How will their boss’s number improve by implementing your solution? What are the consequences of doing nothing?

We have to dive in to understand their numbers. They may express their numbers in ways that are unfamiliar to us. It may be achieving a design objective or cost budget for a new product. Or achieving certain objectives in a new product launch. It may be improving manufacturing efficiency or productivity, improving inventory turns, reducing scrap or rework. It might be implementing a new process. It could be improving cash flow, reducing DSO, improving asset utilization. It could be improving profitability or shareholder value.

Each of our customers (individuals) has their numbers. Just like sales people understand the secret language behind “how are you doing,” our customers have their own language around the same issue. If we don’t understand that language and communicate in those terms, we can’t be successful. We can’t create value, we can’t help our customers realize value.

Do you know your customers numbers? Do you know what their year is looking like? Do you know how you can help them make their numbers?