Rule #4 – It's All About Your Customer
(from 42 Rules to Increase Sales Effectiveness)
So if it’s not about you the salesperson, and it’s not about your products, then what is it all about? Well, who’s left? It’s all about your customer. In sales, the customer is number 1. The customer rules. The sun rises and sets with customers whose purchase of products pay the bills. This should come as no surprise. Then why do we sometimes forget our focus? Because, of course, it’s easy to default to focusing on ourselves and our products.
The best companies get this right. When I worked for IBM early in my career it was ingrained in all of us that the customer came first. IBM is a world-class services, engineering and manufacturing company. It’s a world-class sales, service and support organization. Across every plant and field branch office, make no mistake that all efforts evolved around ultimately satisfying customer wants and needs. From my perspective, at IBM, Sales is King, but the Customer is Number 1. All employees moved
toward the fulfillment of keeping customers coming in and staying in the fold and growing their relationship with Big Blue.
I’ve never forgotten how that priority permeated the culture of the organization. While there was a healthy respect for our own products, sales prowess and service reputation, there was an almost reverential feeling toward our existing customers and prospects. This carried over into how we as salespeople approached, serviced and sold to them. It wasn’t always perfect, but the culture drove the effort. Even our selling process (in the 1980s) carried the mantle Customer-Oriented Selling.
With the correct focus on the customer, the foundation for sales success and thus effectiveness is laid. If we respect our prospects and customers as people rather than as objects of attainment, then we approach, engage, discover, question, negotiate and close them with competent humanity. We do not badger, insult, barrage, belittle, disrespect, manipulate, or take advantage of those whom we, in essence, should seek to serve. I daresay that when we approach our prospects and customers with a servant’s heart, a workman’s ethic, a quality product at a fair and reasonable price, we become a force to be reckoned with in the marketplace.
I once joined a firm and took over a territory previously managed by a rep who was fired for forging customer signatures on two deals. On my second week on the job I had to go out and apologize to upset customers for these egregious acts by a representative of my company. On top of that, I found out that my firm already had a dubious reputation among some customers in my new territory. Without skipping a beat, I immediately went to work on my own systematic 90-day Customer Rejuvenation Program. I did not “approach and sell” during that period as much as simply “reach out and touch” my prospects and customers with a monthly personal campaign that included letters (this was pre-email), postcards and phone call messages. Every prioritized account (see Rule 19) was included in the campaign that was personally managed by me, not by Marketing. I had to control the turnaround effort and put a personal stake in the territory ground as the new sales guy in town. My mailings and messages were upbeat, positive and personal. I held my head high and did not issue blanket apologies for past poor service. I approached prospects and customers with the assumption that whatever concerns they had about the quality of our service and support, those days were past. A new day had come and it started with me and a professional and intelligent introduction to the new team.
By the end of my first full year in the territory I was the #1 sales revenue producer worldwide for the company. My customers loved me because I loved them first.
Do you put your customers first?