Your customer promotes your business case just as much as you do
In my previous blog post I talked about the importance of co-creation of your business case with your customer. The business case should not be a back-office exercise, but rather something you prepare to build together with your customer. This is for several reasons: Firstly, in the world of industrial project business, customers are not afraid to shop around for competitive supplier alternatives through tendering so it’s important that you align them to shop for something unique that you are offering. Secondly, if your products and services are innovative or unfamiliar to the customer, they may undervalue, misinterpret or completely ignore your value proposition. Thirdly, you should see co-creation as a two-way street, where you can learn from your customer just as they learn from you. In addition, you’re more likely to come up with more creative and unique solutions that fit your customer if you create them together, serving your customer’s needs better, justifying a healthy sales margin for you while enhancing your competitive edge. Last but definitely not least, co-creation stems trust, and if the customer trusts you are working in their best interest, they are more likely to buy and to buy from you.
You need to trust your customer just as they need to trust youMuch like it is important for your customer to trust you, you also need to be able to trust your customer in that what they do also works towards your interest. However, it’s not that you need the whole customer organization to express trust towards you but rather a select important few. In the same way, you need to know who you can trust will promote your case forward and upward. These persons can be referred to as promoters. They are the ones who will get the customer’s management buy-in for investing in your proposed project and they will make sure that purchasers know what criteria to procure on.
Identify who from the customer end can promote your business case forward and upwardThe concept of promoters was originally coined by Hans-Georg Gemünden in his research on innovation where he found that new creations involve multi-person support and decision processes. Incorporating this into terms of b2b sales, in any customer organization there will be key persons/stakeholders that can promote new business ideas and projects on different levels. As a sales person, it is important for you to identify these key persons at an early stage and make sure that they are all positively aligned with the value of the business case you are co-creating, as they will play a crucial role in convincingly pushing the business case to higher management.
However, a typicality in industrial project business is that customer organizations can be very large, and it can be difficult to get your foot through the door and to the right people. It is not only impossible, but there is no point for you to co-create with and gain trust from all relevant persons in the organization; you should focus only on the ones that are most important for promoting your business case. So who are they and how can you identify them? Thinking about a current case you have at hand, if you are able to identify someone or several that you consider are promoting your case, a first useful step is to group them into promoter categories. This way you’ll also know which of the persons you thought of are most important for pushing your sale and why. In my next blog post I will talk about what these categories are, why they are important, and how you can identify which category your promoters belong to.