Today’s post is by Jeanne Bliss, author of Would You Do That to Your Mother?: The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers, and president of CustomerBliss, where her clients include AAA, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Johnson & Johnson, The U.S. Postal System, and Brooks Brothers.
Focus on earning the relationship – not making the sale.
When I work with B2B companies around the world, one of the first things we do is a “trust audit.” We take a magnifying lens to key interactions and paperwork to determine if customers feel a balance in the communication and the terms of the relationship.
Take your contract experience, for example. One of the activities we frequently do is bring different stakeholders into a room with leaders of the organization. We discuss every stage of the experience. And the stage that includes the contract is often one of the bumpiest conversations.
Take a look at your boilerplate that is the starting point for customer terms. Is it clearly laid out? Are the terms stacked in your favor? What percent of the content is fine print?
How about the process for negotiating the contract? Your process may not be like this, but these discussions often resemble negotiations at car dealerships. Requests made are sent somewhere to be discussed and processed. And there are often long periods where customers are waiting for a response.
Across the rest of your customer journey, is the relationship balanced? Could your actions be perceived by your customers as protecting you and not them? Any terms of engagement or rules that demand customer trust but do not provide trust in return?
For example, a global manufacturer client of mine frequently manufactured customized specifications for each client. This process had to begin with a basic prototype that was then customized.
These prototypes were quite valuable to the firm and always accompanied on delivery by a term sheet and set of actions and fees that would be passed on to the client if the prototype were damaged or not returned. However, they also expected the client to turn over their IP and property as part of the development process – with no equivalent protections in place.
Why wouldn’t this manufacturer trust these very large B2B customers when such large eventual business was at stake?
Often, these practices are legacy rules. But they make customers stop and pause. And, if they happen enough, they might open the door to competitive bids. (This actually happened to my client.)
So, take some time and do a trust audit of your business practices. Across your customer journey – as you are providing samples, showing a demo, writing a contract, or onboarding or serving after the sale – are there places where you are holding all the cards? Reverse those practices to bring balance back to those relationships.
Focus on earning the relationship, not making the sale. It will change the tenor of your relationship with the customers you can’t risk losing.
This idea and practice was adapted from Jeanne’s 23 years as a chief customer officer and consultant. It is a key idea expressed in her upcoming book: Would You Do That to Your Mother?: The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers.