Recently, I’ve been trying something new when I meet with clients. I ask, “When was the last time you visited your customers–in a non sales situation? When did you actually see what they do, how they use your solutions? What have you done to get to know them better?

Unfortunately, the responses aren’t surprising. Many have never actually visited a customer. If course they’ve met them at trade shows and industry events, they may have spoken to them on the phone. They’ve had email or social exchanges with customers.

But too often, the “customer” has become an abstraction. The customer has been reduced to a persona, a set of buying characteristics, a data point in a collection of data points, a member of a market or industry.

When we talk of customers, our charts show brands, logos, enterprises.

It’s amazing to me (and to most sales people) that we have lost, or perhaps never seen, the faces of our customers. The number of product managers, marketing, even SDRs, Inside Sales, Sales Ops, Sales Enablement, Customer Experience, and senior executives that have never visited a customer, or at least not within the last year is astounding.

It’s impossible for us to have empathy with an enterprise or organization. It’s impossible to understand really who are customers are, what they face, their fears/dreams until we put faces to our customers.

Some years ago, I visited the corporate headquarters of a client. They had done something remarkable. In each conference room, in the halls on the way to their cafeteria, they had place pictures of their customers. People, not logos. Accompanying each picture was a small card with their story. The stories weren’t testimonials about my client’s products, but THEIR stories, what they did, what they accomplished. Every few months, they would rotate new pictures in.

Talking to the CEO about this, he said that he wanted everyone in the organization, even those distant from day to day interaction with customers, to know who their customers are. He wanted to surround them with the faces of customers, so they could associate what they did with customers, every day.

It is too easy to think of our customers as abstractions. When we do so, we lose them. We lose our ability to understand and empathize with them.

Perhaps it’s time for your company to start displaying the faces of your customers. Fill the walls of your offices with their pictures and stories.

If you are a marketing person, a product manager, even a SDR, Inside Sales, Sales Ops or Sales Enablement person, make the time to go visit a customer. Not a phone call or a video call, but a visit. Don’t talk about your product, talk about them, learn who they are, what they do.

When you get back to your office, share their stories with everyone else.

SOURCEPartners in Excellence
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Dave Brock
Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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