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Reference Point
HOW TO HELP MARKETING AND SALES SHARPEN THE FIRM VALUE PROPOSITION

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You probably spend a fair amount of time presenting on your customer reference/advocacy/engagement program to internal stakeholders, such as sales, account managers, marketing, etc. Here's a terrific way to help them understand the value your program provides. It will also help them dramatically clarify your firm's value proposition. I'm speaking from experience in conducting workshops that include sales and marketing people in the room. This is especially effective with people who have hands-on experience working with customers after the sale--such as account managers. Here's how it works:
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Call a volunteer to come up to the front of the room, and ask him to describe your firm's value proposition. Chances are, it will be some variation of the language used in your marketing and branding. As an outsider, I almost always hear some sort of boiler plate that clearly, no prospect would be particularly moved by.

Then ask your volunteer to think of a particularly happy and loyal customer he works with. Once he has her in mind, ask him to "switch identities" and respond to the following questions as she would. That is, he plays the role of the customer. That single mental switch will open amazing doors.

Here are the questions. This takes at most 5 minutes:

1. What do you enjoy best about working with us?

Then be quiet and just listen.

Then probe...

2. Can you elaborate on this?

3. How does this help you? How does it help your business?

4. Can you quantify this?

5. How does this make you feel?

That's it. I did this at a recent workshop for a national engineering services firm, asking a business unit head to volunteer. We started with him describing the firm's value proposition, which he described thusly, "We provide comprehensive engineering solutions that help clients reduce costs and improve accuracy." Not exactly scintillating.

Then when he stepped into the shoes of a great customer, and started responding to the above questions, the answers popped. "With XYS in our side, we're confident we can excel with the most complex projects." "I don't lose sleep like I used to over some of the novel issues we're facing with clients in the environmental space." "On one project, XYZ allowed us to reduce 3 weeks of research and analysis to a few days." (This result was unexpected.) "I trust XYZ implicitly, even with our most challenging projects." Etc.

If you go through these steps with your stakholders, you'll get amazing answers too. When you summarize the volunteer's answers for the audience--paying particular attention to the language the volunteer used about feelings and emotions--and then compare those to the answer he gave before "switching identities," you'll have a visible "aha" reaction from the audience. They'll see--and feel--how important the value you provide by extracting this information on a regular basis from your customers.

And btw, don't forget when you're back working with your customer advocates, to be sure and ask them these questions as well! Sometimes customer engagement professionals get bogged down in asking customers advocates the questions marketing wants to ask, and looking for the answers marketing wants to hear. Bad idea. Be sure and ask the above open-ended questions to find out how customers really value what you do. The results will often amaze your stakeholders.

All the best,

Bill

Bill Lee


Center for Customer Engagement (C4CE) | +1 214.907.5600 | bill@c4ce.com | http://www.c4ce.com/
3225 Turtle Creek Blvd
Suite 1801
Dallas, TX 75219
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Center for Customer Engagement | 3225 Turtle Creek Blvd | Suite 1801 | Dallas | TX | 75219