Today's post is by Ned Daubney, strategic customer advisor and founder at Last Mile Insight, which helps enterprise sales and marketing teams sell complex solutions to their most important customers by providing highly customized, deep-dive customer insight. Contact Ned at 508/965-9676 or Ned@lastmileinsight.com.
Strategic customer acquisition programs often require a highly synchronized effort from enterprise sales, marketing, product leaders, and executives. Everyone needs to be on the same page to deeply understand the customer and the specific opportunities: messaging, positioning, and all engagement activity depends on a shared understanding of what’s in the customer decision-makers’ minds.
The Last-mile Effort of Pre-sales Customer Analysis
That is a tall order. In essence, it’s packaging the mountain of available information into a concise, comprehensible summary that will unite your entire team toward a highly focused and effective sales campaign.
Among the many reasons to deeply understand these top customers is this biggie: to stand above competitors by equipping your sales teams to “teach, tailor, and take control” at customer engagements as promoted by the Challenger (and other) solution sales models.
So how does this get done? Who does it? And what insight makes the final cut into the final shared customer profile document?
You certainly can’t expect everyone involved in selling to read all the generic customer and market intelligence reports. There is a final step (which I call the “Last Mile”) in which someone needs to summarize and share all the known data and intelligence and connect it with your specific opportunities – adding conclusions, suggestions, and (most of all) insight.
Ideally, this should be done by a strategic market analyst working closely with the account rep. Analysts are often better at sharing this with the entire team. Some use an external consultant (shameless plug) to help out when needed and to train in-house analysts.
This is definitely not a cut-and-paste exercise – it takes thoughtful analysis. Think of Cliff Notes. You shrink-wrap and repackage valuable information into useful insight.
I have found what is most important in these customer profiles is the focus on what is going on inside the head the key C-suite executives – depending, of course, on what you are selling.
Since my clients tend to sell primarily to CIOs, my profiles start with this person, but will certainly include insights about the CEO – because what the CEO sees as important will impact other C-suite mindsets.
For example, a CEO under pressure from analysts or investors might publicly state her new policy demanding strict ROI measurements for all future projects and major purchases. Knowing this, you might suggest in your CIO profile that your team carefully prepare highly believable ROI statements and slides for your engagement. You would even more certainly want this if the CIO has a business background or an MBA.
Profile reports often include multiple members of the decision-maker ecosystem.
Typical Customer Profile Report Content
Here is just some of the typical CxO / customer profile report content:
- “About (this company)”
- Their “marketplace”
- Their “business strategy”
- “How to approach this CxO”
- “Current initiatives”
- “Hot buttons and pain points”
- “Change drivers”
- “Strategic value” of your solutions to this target
Each of these topics requires a last-mile analysis of your intelligence mountain. Believe me, should you be lucky enough to have your CEO meet with the customer’s CEO, you will be very glad you did your last mile of homework.
One last point I need to make – and this will make some of you uneasy. The general rule at many companies is that, since your top executives are busy, they require a one- or (at most) two-page document. Forget it. That won’t work here – break the rule. You can’t do this as a one-pager. But make your three- to six-page (or more) profile engaging. Write in human terms. Give your own suggestions and conclusions. Be provocative, if it fits. Use a (very) little humor where appropriate. I’d rather hear, “Oops, I’m sorry; I should have read your whole document,” than, “You should have told me that,” from an executive.
I’ve found that executives can read and internalize any document in a fraction of the time of most humans.
Make them engage. Your executives don’t want to meet strangers – they want to meet someone they know (and can help exploit). They want to win as much as you do. And this is true for the rest of the team: the more they understand the customer and the intelligence-fed team strategy, the better they can each fulfill their role.
For strategic accounts, the last-mile analysis is what demonstrates the value in all your customer and market intelligence investments. These investments have saved you days or even weeks of research time and effort, and are the key feedstock for your final, consumable customer report that puts everyone on the same winning page. So much depends on this last-mile effort.