Every conversation matters
There are very few areas in your life where you can avoid speaking to others whether over the phone, face-to-face and now digitally. We all need to communicate with others.
When we speak with anyone we can often miss something fundamental about this undervalued communication medium that has shaped the ideas of civilisations.
That is the power of conservation. The mechanism we use to express and understand ideas, beliefs, emotions and much more.
Did you know that you can design the experience you want with every customer you have every day?
One of the most effective ways to do this is in reigniting the power of conversation.
For any customer leader serious about meaningfully moving their customer relationships forward here are five critical conversations to use.
Number 1 – Expectation Conversations
Do these statements ring true in your mind? Aren’t customers indecisive and unsure? Do they even know what they want?
The truth is our customers are more informed than ever but their expectations can and will change based on where they are. This is why we can never assume expectations remain the same.
Now, one of the biggest mistakes that we make is assuming that expectations remain the same throughout the course of our relationship with our customers.
That is just false.
In our own relationships, we know that our expectations change based on context, scenario, and the kinds of people we work with. This is because we’re always looking to mitigate risk and elevate our ability to inspire confidence and particular decision-making. And so for you and with your customers on a monthly recurring basis, we need to check in. This ensures that our expectations are not just being met, but we’re understanding the changing landscape of expectations based on pressures and different circumstances that your customers might be under.
Let’s just take an example. At the beginning of your relationship, your particular contact has the role of a VP of sales, or VP of marketing. All of a sudden the following year, now they become the chief marketing officer. Now you might think, “Hey, that’s great. They’re promoted. We have more access. We have more influence.” But guess what? Under that particular role, there are new pressures for that person. There are new kinds of expectations on them. And that means you have different expectations put on you as the partner.
We always need to be in step and thinking about expectations.
Let me define the expectation I want you to go after. This expectation is:
“an agreed practice, value or behaviour of a person or between multiple people that defines how you approach particular tasks, circumstances and decisions.”
If you approach the conversation with this definition you can approach your client with the right messaging and with more clarity and confidence.
This must be an agreement that is shared and committed to by you and your customer. With this in place no matter what changes may come you’ll have a foundation to work from.
Number 2 – Team Conversations
We all need team conversations. How you and your customer works together is really, really important. And it doesn’t just involve you. It will be the executives in your company. It will be team members. It will be finance, operations etc.
As the person who’s owning the relationship, it is your job to make sure that the other relationships in the team are focused on what matters most, and are providing an experience that all of you can be proud of, and the customer wants to be involved in and participate in.
It’s tough being the one who has to keep things flowing between your and your customers organisation. Managing multiple people with different agendas, needs and ideas is a challenge.
You must look for ways to hold things in the middle and view what’s taking place.
This will help in knowing how best to manage and master what’s happening so the experience and expectations of your customer is met.
This will mean having clear agenda items in your internal and external meetings that are results and impact focused. Importantly have clear actions that hold everyone accountable.
Number 3 – Reality-Based Conversations
The third conversation that needs to take place is a reality-based conversation. We never want to ignore things that happen because we’re afraid to approach them, or afraid to deal with them.
We need to have reality conversations that say, “Hey, we’re in a period right now where it sucks. It’s not good, or it is good.” Whatever those things are, state the reality.
Kick out the elephant in the room, and ensure that you’re having honest conversations so that your customer isn’t playing scenarios in their mind about what you are or aren’t doing about your current circumstance.
It’s your job to completely eliminate the story and narrative in your customer’s mind, and provide a certain narrative that is about you talking about the reality of what’s happening.
We must be real with our customers.
Reality-based conversations are designed to address what’s happening today. They explore what the natural next step for the customer is, address concerns, challenges and obstacles.
They ensure the customer’s voice is being heard and they feel seen and understood.
It is also a chance to highlight the importance of particular actions together or areas that might impact your work together.
Number 4 – Future-Based Conversations
Future-based conversations are just that. About the future.
It is not about a guess of the future but sowing seeds for future opportunity and painting a vision for what the relationship could be and not just what it is.
You wouldn’t have this conversation every week or even every month.
Once a quarter in your review meetings I’d encourage you to consider an item to be just about the future.
Get your customer excited about where you’re going despite where you might be.
Every week, you or your organisation is in some way talking about the future.
You’re talking about an end result with, and for the customer. But I want you to focus just a little bit past that particular junction and outcome that your customer is looking for.
Now that might be coming a month from now, a year from now, even two years from now. But I need you to think even beyond that. At all appropriate interactions we must sow seeds for future opportunities.
When is the best time to plant a tree. Twenty years ago or RIGHT NOW!
The same principle can be used with our customer relationships.
In your future-based conversations, what we need to talk about are things that matter beyond the result.
Example: I’ll ask a question like, “Mr. Customer, we’re really excited to help you get that particular outcome. What do we believe this outcome will contribute to in the overall picture of the business?”
Once your customer defines this. Dig deeper and begin to thread that vision into your conversations.
Number 5 – Results-Based Conversations
Results-based conversations are short, embedded and specific.
They are there not to brag, but to demonstrate how you’re delivering value and celebrating success with your customer.
We should never expect our customers to know every win we have with them. Particularly if we’re working with large and complex organisations.
We should never assume that just because we’ve achieved a particular result with the customer that those results have been disseminated and communicated to other parts of the business.
That’s almost never the case unless it’s something really, really big.
But, even if it is something big, it doesn’t mean that other people care and want to know, or really see the benefit or value to them.
So it’s our job to begin to help them see that more clearly. When you’re having a results-based conversation, we need to talk about case studies, ways in which they are communicating that for themselves, so that they can raise their own status and advocacy in their own business.
Example: Look for specific mini case studies. How has the result of this impacted other departments? And can we create some communication around the impact to other departments as well? Maybe communicate with marketing.
“Hey, marketing, with you we’d love to put together some cases of how the business is really succeeding with X areas within the business so that everybody gets to share in those successes. Here are a couple of ideas. What do you think?”
There are numerous ways in which you can be creative in thinking about results-based conversations that allow you and your results to be elevated and scaled across your customer’s business.
Ultimately these conversations will build confidence and trust. Very quickly you’ll be known as the person and organisation that delivers results.
Those are the five big things, conversations you need to have with your customers.
If you can have all five of these conversations intentionally crafted throughout each month or quarter, you’ll be sure to have a much broader, a much clearer and transparent view with your customers. They’ll also have much more engagement with you that is rich and meaningful.
If you’d like a summary and PDF exercises for this blog check out this video in the mastery channel which covers all five areas.
Your Customer Growth Guide