Internal Steps Toward Institutionalized Customers
In part one of his series, Dave Mantel explained what institutionalized customers are and why they're so good for your business. In part two he discusses what steps to take in your business to begin creating these customers.
State the Mission
If the plan is to create the kind of customers who increase the value of your business, everyone in the business must understand this is an on-purpose strategy.
Take Responsibility for Your Client Relationships
In businesses with a sales or a business development team, it is the responsibility of the individuals on that team to target and bring new business to the organization, no matter the scale. What is the expectation of how these customers will be dealt with inside your organization? Will the single point of contact be the person who brought the business to your company? If so, institutionalization of this customer will likely not happen as most, if not all, of the client communication will be through this single point of contact. What’s also not likely to happen is a continued relationship with this client should your business development person leave your organization.
To develop institutionalized customers your customer must be exposed to several points of contact in your company, including you. The more exposure a customer has to the people in your business, the more that customer feels a part of the business. You become less of a vendor and more of a group of people with common business goals. Your customers will begin to develop valuable relationships with the employees of their choosing — sometimes the most unlikely employees.
I once worked in an organization where the local delivery driver was, in fact, the sole reason some customers did business with the company. As a result of outsourcing delivery, this individual was let go. This shortsightedness turned out to be an example of the kind of damage which can be done in the name of cost savings in an organization.
Develop a Sales Culture
There’s an old adage that says, “Everyone is a salesperson.” I suppose this pertains to instilling an understanding amongst employees who are not apparently part of the sales team that they do, ultimately, impact revenue — or that we all have an agenda and being good at articulating it can be personally and professionally beneficial. However, institutionalizing customers requires much more. It requires everyone in the organization to include your customers as a valuable part of your business. It also requires you to empower your people to proactively welcome and develop their professional relationships with your customers. Some employees will not be capable of adapting to this culture. If this is to the detriment of institutionalizing your customers, these employees will likely not weather the transition.
Educate Your Business Development People
Paradoxically, your business development staff will be among those who will most need to align with the sales culture in your organization. In large part, salespeople don’t share well when it comes to “their” customers. Expect a great deal of discomfort and pushback from business development staff when you tell them your vision for a sales culture in the organization. Those who sell tend to view customers possessively and as their long-term marketability. In most organizations they’re not wrong, since it’s likely your business development people have always been held accountable for the company’s customer relationships and expected to operate in a fairly autonomous manner.
Business development’s acceptance of this new culture will come with the realization that it actually supports them by freeing up a great deal of selling time, time which will be focused on key customers (account management), accounts which should be bringing more business to your organization (farming) and, of course, filling the opportunity pipeline with new business (hunting, consultative selling and closing).
As in all things, inspecting what you expect is crucial to aligning the development of a new strategy. As part of each employee review, include examples of the employee’s successes as well as areas for growth as they pertain to each of their clients and each of the individual relationships they’re developing with people throughout their clients’ organizations.
You will also need to further refine job descriptions and expectations as it pertains to your company sales culture. Examples of KPIs (key performance indicators) might be things where each employee can clearly see where they had a positive impact on customer relationships. This could be unique information employees have about key customers (hobbies, birthdays, family information) or particulars about your company’s specific, performance-related nuances as they apply to specific customers.
Check back next week for part three, when Dave goes into practical external steps for creating institutionalized customers.
About the Author
|Dave Mantel is the founder and president of Acme Sales Development, LLC, a Seattle-area sales development company focusing on increasing and sustaining topline revenue.
You can reach Dave by email or call him at (206) 948-1526.
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