One of the most fun things I get to do is spend time with sales people calling on customers. There’s something about being with a sales person (particularly a good one) in front of a customer that changes your perspective.
The customer isn’t an abstract persona, she’s not a data point in a report or analytics, the customer isn’t part of a market research sample, he’s not someone trying to take advantage of us, she’s not reliant on digital channels to navigate their buying process.
A customer is a human being, trying to get more done than he has time available. He may be trying to survive, keeping a boss off his back. She may be driven by a terrific vision to address new market opportunities. He is driven to improve productivity and effectiveness of his operations. They are people trying to learn, grow, achieve. They have families, they have rich experiences, they have opinions.
A customer in real life is, well —- real.
As @GerryMoran recently tweeted, “You learn more in a day talking to customers, than a week of brainstorming, a month of watching competitors, or a year of market research.”
There’s another great thing about visiting a customer with a sales person. You start to get a view of the realities sales people face every day.
It’s too easy to sit in an office or conference room, theorizing provocative questions, sales discussions, second guessing sales activities from a distance. It’s so easy in a play book, it always works in a blog post. But when you are actually in front of a customer, the world changes. What we casually thought about in our conferences rooms is impossible to execute with the customer because it makes no sense.
I get executives calling me every day asking me to “Fix Their Sales Problem.” One of the first questions I ask is when the last visited a customer, when they went on a sales call, when they put on a headset and listened to a conversation an inside sales person is having with a customer.
When I talk to product managers, marketing people, sales enablement people–all focused on introducing new products, programs, methods. I ask them when they last visited a customer, when they spent some windshield time talking to a sales person.
And, unfortunately, I ask the same of sales managers. I ask them, “When’s the last time you came out from behind your desk to go on a sales call.” Some say, “I was at our user conference,” or “I was at a tradeshow.” That’s okay, but my question is, “When is the last time you rode with your sales person and made a sales call.”
The answers, very often, are disappointing. Some have never visited a customer someplace other than a trade show or conference. Some can barely remember. Tragically, while they don’t really admit it, some don’t want to–it’s too tough, they don’t want to get their hands dirty with actually being in front of a customer.
But then there are the real leaders. Whether it’s a CEO, an executive, an inspired marketer, a sales enablement manager, a sales manager–you can always tell. In every meeting, they pepper the conversation with, “Last week I was meeting with……. and this is what they face….” “I was talking too…..” Customers are part of every conversation and story. Customer focus is not an initiative, it’s a natural part of how these people work and think.
When’s the last time you visited a customer with a sales person?
Whether you are a CEO, corporate executive of any type, marketing or product marketing person, sales enablement person, sales manager—if it’s more than 30 days, it’s been too long.
Get out and visit one, it’s one of the most fun and impactful ways to invest your time.