No matter how comprehensive your methodology for managing customer contacts is, once you get in front of the customer anything can happen. That is why, in addition to the tools and approaches we recommend for guiding customer contacts, we have provided the list below of lessons learned from our own encounters. They were compiled by Bob Kelly, a business development and capture consultant with 21 years as a U.S. Naval Aviator and Projects Officer and 17 years as a business developer for Lockheed Martin.
The items on the list are not in any particular order or grouped, categorized, or converted into precise steps. And yet they can be just as important for achieving successful customer contacts as the steps in your process.
- Treat every “scheduled” customer contact as valuable time that you may never get again.
- Plan each aspect of the contact from body language to what you hope to walk away with.
- Know what you want to get out of the contact.
- Know what you want the customer to get out of the contact --- make it worth their while.
- Act sincere and respectful at all times regardless of how you’re received.
- Show up prepared with primary and back-up methods of presenting your information.
- Be ready for the unexpected – whether it’s hand cramps from taking lots of notes on critical information or complete customer silence that could be described as deafening.
- Educate the customer – if you tell them something they don’t already know, solve an issue they have, or help them avoid a future problem, their confidence in you, your company, and your products will grow.
- Listen well and give the customer your full attention regardless of what they want to talk about – if the conversation strays, find an opening to nudge the dialogue back on course.
- Develop messages to the customer to improve your position regarding the opportunity at hand, and to build long-term customer relationships.
- Learn as much as you can about their expectations and preferences.
- Keep track of action items, especially those that require follow-up.
- Anticipate potential outcomes and be prepared with responses.
- A “Thank You” note for the use of customer time is usually appropriate.
- In case of an “unscheduled” encounter with a customer, each member of your Capture Team should have at the ready an “Elevator Speech” – information that can be presented in the time it takes an elevator to go to the next floor.