April 9, 2012

Seek Feedback from Your Best Customers to Strengthen Your Sales Story

This past week I traveled with the president and the CEO of one of my clients. We’ve been tinkering with their sales approach and also working to strengthen their “sales story.” They asked me to join them on this trip to sit in on the annual business review meeting with an important Fortune 500 client, and also to help lead a sales call with a prospect.

We were having breakfast preparing for both meetings when the president shared an email from one of our main client contacts. The client made reference to this review meeting as a “formality” and freely offered that they were happy campers. While that was great to hear, I made the point that did not change our goals for the meeting. We were looking to gain some additional fodder for our ever-improving sales story, and also wanted to dig below the surface level with the senior executive to ensure we were exceeding their expectations.

I suggested that we use one of my favorite questions – one that I normally use when prospecting to help secure a meeting with a potential client who tells me “everything is fine with the current situation.” It felt like this question would work really well and help us achieve both of our objectives. My client agreed, and about five minutes into the meeting, used it to perfection, directed at the senior executive:

“We are very pleased to hear you’re happy. But we’d like to know, are you like 7-happy or are you 10-happy?” 

The executive smiled, said something funny and pretty soon we were all laughing. Then my client came back at him again explaining that he was serious and truly wanted to know how satisfied they were, and what we need to do to score to a “10.” The executive said he could not more pleased, provided several examples of why that was the case, and even drew some stark contrasts between his experience with us and what was typical with their previous provider.

I frantically wrote down every piece of feedback that came out of the executive’s mouth – smiling on the inside that this question did exactly what we hoped it would:

  1. The client verbalized and reminded himself and his team, in his own words, why he loves us. 
  2. We learned exactly what we were doing right and what we need to continue doing to keep Mr. Executive happy.
  3. We picked up some very strong and specific client testimonial talking points that can easily be incorporated into our sales story.
You don’t need to hold an annual business review meeting to achieve those three benefits above. When working through an exercise with client sales teams to sharpen their sales story, I’ll often suggest that they call just a handful of their favorite clients. And I implore the salespeople to call, not email, their customers. You want to hear their voice inflection and the emotion behind what they’re sharing as they respond to these questions:
  • Why did you initially choose us? What issues were you looking to address or what results were you hoping to achieve?
  • How have we made your life or job easier/better?
  • How do you view my company? How are we delivering value to you?
  • What makes us different and why would you recommend us to others?

You will feel like a million bucks after speaking with a few customers. And you should have some powerful, fresh material to strengthen your story. Try it; you’ll like it.