Paul shares some thoughts on the sanctity of the customer/seller relationship.
“It is not my prospect. It is not my customer. It is our prospect. It is our customer.” It’s not just one person who will manage the end-to-end customer experience, it’s a team of people.
Be objective in determining who is better suited to handle this relationship. If it’s you, make your sales manager aware.
Team members need to build each other up.
Take a team approach and leverage the strength of the relationship that another team member may have with this customer.
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What if my customer or prospect wants a different go-to contact?
(Transcribed from podcast)
On today’s show, we’ve got a question from J.P. J.P. is in the Netherlands. And actually, J.P. gave me a nice shout-out here. He said, “You know, before I get started with my question,” he said, “I just want you to know, I love the podcast. Biking along the beautiful canals of Amsterdam and listening to them.” Well, I must say J. P., I am jealous. I’ve never actually been to Amsterdam. Hope to make it there someday.
But here’s basically what J.P. is working through. He’s been working a prospect for, let’s call it a few months, okay? Now, he’s based in the Netherlands, and this opportunity is based in the U.S. So the prospect is expressing strong interest to move forward. He’s gone through the sales process and they’re getting close to signing the deal. And it turns out that this U.S.-based prospect mentioned that they want to work with the U.S.-based contact. And this U.S.-based contact happens to be a friend or a colleague of the prospect.
So, the question that we’re going to tackle on today’s episode is, “What if my prospect or customer wants to switch me out as the contact?” Let’s think about that question: “What if my prospect or customer wants to switch me out as their contact?” So that’s what we’re going to answer on today’s show.
Before we get into that, make sure you pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. As inflation continues to grow, as interest rates are on the rise, as the economy starts to slow down, we’ve actually seen that here in the U.S., the likelihood of a recession is only increasing. Now is the time to pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. Read through it. You don’t want to be the one salesperson six months from now who said, “Oh geez. I knew this was coming, but I didn’t do anything about it.” Now is the time to take action. So pick up Selling Through Tough Times. It is your go-to guide for how to sell during a recession or a downturn.
Let’s get back to that question: “What if my prospect or customer wants to switch out me as their main contact?” Well, we’re going to just go through a couple of thoughts here, alright J.P. And I feel for you. I’ve been in these situations before. First things first, we have to remember that it is not my prospect; it is not my customer. It is our prospect; it is our customer. Remember that it’s not just one single person that’s going to manage the end-to-end experience. It’s really, it’s a team of people that are going to have to come through for this customer or prospect in the end. In fact, our customer’s needs, they will extend far beyond our capabilities as individual salespeople. And that’s why we have a team in place, and different departments and all that good stuff.
So let’s get out of the mind that this is my prospect. And I know that you’re the one that is putting in the effort. You’re the one that, that has had the discovery process. You’re the one who’s been presenting it. You’re the one who’s been generating momentum. And in that sense, obviously, you’re going to feel a sense of ownership to the relationship. But we’ve got to remember that it’s not one person. It’s not one person. It’s not my prospect, it’s not my customer; it’s truly our customer. So let’s try to broaden our view here a little bit beyond us, beyond just ourselves, because I know that could be challenging. But let’s take a broader view of how we’re connected with this customer and prospect, and the relationship that we have.
So, next thing to think about—let’s get into some of the tactics now. So, J.P. is dealing with the situation where the prospect may want to switch contacts to a more local contact. Someone that’s there, that can meet with them face to face possibly. I don’t know why, but this customer wants to switch contacts. We need to step outside and be a little more objective and say, “Okay, who is better equipped to manage this prospect or customer relationship?” Alright, J.P.? And if that’s you, we need to make our company aware of that. Ask yourself, “Who is better suited to manage this type of relationship? Who has more experience with this prospect’s needs? Who has more experience solving problems for this particular customer?” And if that’s the case of, you’re the one that has more experience, if you’re better equipped, then you need to make your management aware of that. Make your sales manager, your leader, whoever it is you’re working through, and whoever’s going to help mediate this, we need to talk to them and really express that we are best suited to manage this relationship.
Now, this third point, and this is really calling attention to our team members. Remember that our team members, the other salespeople that we’re working with, they should be building us up, not trying to switch the relationship. And so, J.P., I don’t know if that’s going on here, if this U.S.-based colleague is almost working behind the scenes to try to convince the prospect to work through them. I don’t know if that’s happening or not, alright, but that shouldn’t be the case. Team members need to build each other up.
And this reminds me of, gosh, this would have been well over a decade ago. I was selling in the oil and gas industry, and we had a large project, like five or $6 billion project going on. And during this project, the strategic account manager, who helped manage this relationship with the customer, he would manage the relationship at a much higher level. So he would come out to the project occasionally. And one thing that always impressed me about the strategic account manager, is that when we would go visit with the customer on site, he would never bring his business cards. And even the customer would ask him, “Hey, can I have a business card in case I need to get in touch with you?” He would always defer back to me and say, “You know what? Paul is your main contact out here. He’s the guy you want to reach out to. He’s the one who understands the project. He’s the one who is familiar with what you guys are doing out here. Really, he’s the guy you need to talk to.”
He wouldn’t even pass out his contact information to the other customers that we were meeting with. And what that did is that helped build me up. He instilled confidence in me, which was great. But also, he instilled confidence in the customer, letting them know, “Hey, you are in great hands here.”
So we need to remember that. And J.P., that’s what I would encourage your colleague to do is to really focus on building you up, and really understanding the situation, in that maybe you are truly the best person to manage this opportunity. We need your colleague to acknowledge that, if, in fact, that is true, which I believe that it is based on what I’ve been reading.
Moving on to the next tip. We need to circle back here and remember that we should always take a customer-focused approach, which means that we view the world through the eyes of the customer. We act in their best interests. We’re helping them solve their problems. And we need to combine all of those factors because, sometimes, being customer focused does mean we’ve got to help our customer get out of their own way.
So, I would be curious as to what it is the customer truly wants. If they really want to have a U.S.-based contact because they believe that’s going to bring more value, then maybe that’s what we need to do at this point. We need to default back to the customer, and we want to do business the way they want to do business. So, I would—we got to be delicate, right? Because this is not a done deal yet. We don’t want to give the impression that there’s internal strife that we’re trying to work through, that people are arguing over, “Whose contact is it? Is it my prospect? Is it yours?” We don’t want to get that sense.
Instead, maybe we just have a candid conversation in the follow-up and just flat out, ask the customer and say, “Look, I truly believe that I’m best suited to help you achieve the goals for this project. However, at our company, we want to do business the way you want to do business. And our goal is to make your life as easy as possible. So, certainly, we’re going to do what we can to make that happen. I do believe that I’m the best person to help manage this. But we want to do business the way you want to do business. What would you like to do?”
And what we’re doing is we’re throwing it back in their court. We’re also indicating to them that, “Hey, I can handle this,” but we give them the choice. And by doing that, that’s going to help out.
And that leads me to my final point, which is, why not take a team approach, okay? If, J.P., I think you mentioned in your notes that this U.S.-based contact has a relationship with this customer or prospect already. They could be friends or whatever it may be. Would it make sense for the U.S.-based contact to be part of the process in some ways? Maybe to help foster the relationship. And eventually, by you becoming part of this process with your colleague, and you work together as a team, you can leverage the strength of the relationship that he or she already has with the customer or prospect. And also, it’s going to give you an opportunity to go out there and build that relationship as well.
All right, J.P., that’s what I’ve got for you today. Thank you for submitting that question.
Make it a big day.