Having spent many years in start-up and professional world; one of the common question I receive is how I apply my learnings from entrepreneurial world to the professional world. Indeed, there are many learnings which helped me a lot to shape my professional life, but if I have to choose one, that would be the following: Treat your every customer like your first and like your last customer. What do I mean with that?
In Start-ups, you do everything to win your first customer, well your company has its real birth with your very first customer. At the same time, you do your best again in order not to loose your last customer; if you loose your last customer, that means ( or might mean) the end of your beautiful dream. So the first and last customers are very special for entrepreneurs. And the success formula is very simple; if you have that customer obsession for each and every customer you have ( like your first and last customer), you win. So simple, so powerful. And back in professional life, I led many sales and marketing teams and that was my most simple formula. In most of the sales coaching sessions, I found myself asking this question: What would you do differently if this was your company and if this was your first customer? What if this was your last customer and if you do not win the deal, your company will bankrupt. Usually this brings lots of creativity and inspiration to the table. The follow-up question to those are very straightforward: What does it take to win the customer? How do we win the deal? And if we won, did we really won?
In innovation profession, an idea cannot be considered a business innovation (regardless how novel the idea is), if the answer to any of these questions is “no”:
- Is it desirable to users?
- Is it viable to the business?
- Is it feasible technologically?
In Sales profession, it is the almost the same, actually even more. Let me build upon this. Start-ups win customers, they don’t win deals. In professional world, we should strive for the same.
If you want to win a customer; than you need to have 4 sub wins contributing to each other. Think about this like four legged stool where if one of the leg is missing, you might have won the deal but you did not win the customer.
What are the 4 legs of the stool? What are those sub wins?
· First it needs to be a business win. Whatever you are going to sell, should address one of the business objectives of your customer. Whether it is known/articulated need, or unknown/unarticulated need; this leg of stool requires you to have a complete understanding of customer needs and priorities and provide value to your customer by helping them to achieve their objectives. Cross-referencing this to innovation theory, your solution should be desirable for your customer.
· Second leg of stool is technical win. Your solution should be feasible for your customer and add value to their overall capabilities. It should work flawless for the customer’s unique environment/expectations and should be the best match. Not every driver needs a Ferrari, but every driver needs a car that meet their unique expectations from safety, performance, image or other perspectives. So you need to win on technical leg of stool too.
· Third leg of stool is commercial win. And in my coaching discussions, I see lots of sellers immediately jumping and focusing on this leg of stool. I can 100% guarantee that one legged stool wont work. You might have won the deal, but your chances are pretty low to win the customer. And it is clearly not about the price but the value you provide.
· And fourth leg of the stool is value realization win. It is making sure that customer realize the value whatever you promised them. Without the fourth leg, the first three legs wont be enough. You need to win the customer when you win the deal. The first three will help you to win the deal, the fourth one will make sure that you will have new deals and you win the customers.
So any deal won, if it is not a win for all of the four legs, is not complete. If you answer no to any of the four sub wins, you really didn’t win the customers. That is what start-ups do differently to win their first customer and not to loose their last customer. This mindset is what we need to adopt across all our professional life.