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Channel Matters Blog > February 2015 > Keeping the Customer in Mind

Keeping the Customer in Mind

by Rich Blakeman
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Here's a common scenario with which I think most of us can identify. We're working on a really big deal— and I mean huge. This one will make our year if we can close it. (OK, so maybe a deal that size isn't all that common, but it makes my story more exciting.)

 

Our products are a great fit. Our competitor has some pretty major weaknesses. We've even built strong relationships with the CEO and CFO, the two executives who have final budget approval for the deal. There is just one minor hiccup...

 

The customer is in an industry we haven't sold into before. To be clear, this doesn't cause a product issue. We know our solution will help them achieve the goals they've set out to accomplish. It's just that although we are comfortable having an ROI discussion with the CEO and CFO, we're a little out of our depth when it comes to the other influencers who want to talk about their industry issues. Plus, we don't have any strong customer references in this industry while our competition has several.

 

Of course, there is that one partner that came on board last year... They focus on this industry and signed on because they recognized the potential to reach more of their market with our products. But, if we bring them on, we'd have to split the revenues. Management wouldn't be too happy with the lower margins.

 

The Missing Element

If we're honest with ourselves, I think most of us would admit to being hesitant to bring a channel partner into an opportunity like the one I just described. Salespeople don't like to share credit, and management definitely doesn't appreciate lower margins. If there is any chance of us closing the business without the partner, we'll follow that course for as long as we are able.

 

But there's one important element missing from our deliberations — the customer.

What does the customer need in order to be able to make the best decision possible? Most of us talk about being customer-centric. Shouldn't we put some emphasis on the customer's buying process and the individual needs of the influencers on the decision team? If bringing a partner into the opportunity is the best thing for the customer, why wouldn't that be the approach we'd take?

 

We also need to keep in mind that when a customer buys a solution from us, it's more than just the line items on the invoice that they're paying for. They are also "buying" credibility. More specifically, they're buying the confidence that the salesperson provides that the vendor can deliver the outcomes the customer wants. If we don't provide a sales contact that speaks their language and gives them that confidence, then we aren't providing the whole product.

 

It's not like we don't get anything out of the exchange if we bring a partner in. Sure, margins are lower, and we have to share credit with one of the partners, but we stand a better chance of closing this deal with someone who speaks the customer's industry language. Plus, if we're serious about being customer-centric, we may be able to turn this opportunity into a marquee customer and this channel partner into a top performer who can help us find and close more opportunities in this industry.

 

When we involve the right channel partners in the right opportunities at the right level, everyone wins—including the customer. Isn't that what customer centricity is all about?

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