We have all heard of feedback from the “customer’s voice”. What about “voice over prospect” guidance? One company found itself in an increasingly crowded, aggressive market, but still had many long-standing loyal customers. They did something right to hold onto those accounts. They wanted to deposit a little of the goodwill they had built up with a “friendly” customer to find shortcuts in their business development process. In this case study, at the end of the feedback interview, a long-time customer offered a guide to help one of his favorite salespeople compete more effectively. He spoke honestly about what he expects from a salesperson asking for an audience.
This is one in a series of case studies highlighting “key issues and course-corrective quotes” taken from 20 years of B2B customer insight projects. All names are fictitious, but the situations are real. Case studies draw a picture of how important it is to learn what your B2B customers think – but don’t say. These are real-world examples of how customer feedback and action feedback has helped businesses stay in touch with customers longer, grow relationships and get new business faster.
Case Study: Guide to “Voice of the Prospect”
Main question (posed by an SVP on a seven-digit account): “If they did not already do business with you and had no prior connection to your business, what would a salesperson have to say or pass on to interest you in a meeting?”
Course corrective quote:
Senior VP: “If a salesperson wants to schedule a meeting with me, they have to bring something to me that offers an advantage. For example, come in with a sheet that contains ten items that I can choose from. If they are a good match for my business, I have an interest in three of them. I know there will be a sales pitch at the end, but at that point I have gained value so that is fine. Remember if a potential supplier is meeting with a senior manager whose primary job is not the seller’s specialty, that the executive is unlikely to be up to date on the issues the seller is dealing with all the time. The seller may want to hide the list of items to reflect is relevant to the executive branch. I’m impressed when someone did their homework before contacting me. “
All vendors want to know how to clone their best accounts, but winning formulas (and competitive landscapes) change over time. This seller would hear what would work today.
This “voice of the prospect” guide offers universal advice: bring gifts. The strategy is also healthy: Since most decision makers are bombarded with unsolicited requests to meet, ask your best clients what techniques work to win potential suppliers a 15-minute meeting.
Bonus: A total of 10 senior executives offered counseling during this project. Here are what a few suggested for successful cold calling approaches:
“Lead with big names. It says you’re legit.” [Credibility]
“Just say at the beginning of the pitch what you can do to help us. It can’t be all about you.” [Relevance]
“If you have piqued my interest in doing your homework on my situation and needs, ask me for an initial phone interview. Don’t expect to sit in my office for an hour.” [Brevity]
I categorize projects as assessments, investigations, treasure hunts or rescue missions. This project was a “treasure hunt.” The challenge was, “How can we get ahead of more prospects?” Their loyal customers gave them advice from the buyer side of the table.