Helping clients become more strategic

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Mhayes0716
Mhayes0716 Member Posts: 5 Navigator
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edited February 2023 in CS Operations Conversations
I work in an industry where some clients cannot see, refuse to see, or refuse to even care about the value and importance of the services we offer and stay focused only on what is in front of them at the moment.  I have clients like this.  I also have clients who understand strategic initiatives that will help them operate more efficiently and get the most out of the services we provide. 

My question is, how have some of you started to move your "tactical driven" clients to a "strategically visionary" client?  How do you start to instill that emphasis with a client or even their executive leader who just won't go in that direction?  
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  • Marc Phillips
    Marc Phillips Member Posts: 13 Contributor
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    Sometimes it can be a more profitable use of your time and energy focusing on clients who understand your value than continuing to push those who don't. Something to consider around actual potential value of each account.
  • Bodin Pollard
    Bodin Pollard Member Posts: 7 Navigator
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    Agree with Ed Powers that it's often about the questions we ask. You can spend a lot of time analysing tactical vs strategic, but the picture you're painting suggests the struggling clients don't know WHY they're your client. I might be wrong, but that's what I read into your post - it sounds like they're still looking for the quick wins they should've experienced during their initial onboarding.

    It's often dangerous to hit clients head on with the "do you even KNOW why you're a customer?" question, so tread carefully with that. Look at the data behind their usage, look at the value their company needs, and look at your client's own clients to get a real insight into what your client actually needs from you.

    Then, like Ed says in his response here, prompt the audience to shift their own thinking through informed questions that help the client arrive at their own explanation of why they need you. If the client doesn't know this, there isn't likely to be a successful outcome.
  • Denise_Mueller
    Denise_Mueller Member Posts: 5 Navigator
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    @Bodin Pollard you hit the nail on the head - customers do not know why they need you.  I like to ask the client what solution was our product when you initially purchased it.  What problem(s) did you have that you needed to solve?  I like to use this question to guide customer goals and for future check-ins.  
  • Mhayes0716
    Mhayes0716 Member Posts: 5 Navigator
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    Great comments, Thank you all!  I will re-evaluate the questions I have been asking to steer my clients in the direction where they are focused on long term value of our relationship, help those "tactical" thinkers ponder and think more like the C suite so they can further show their value to the organization.  Love all the suggestions, thanks again!
  • Bob London
    Bob London Member Posts: 54 Expert
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    Sorry for the late reply here. Disclaimer: I teach CS and AM teams to have more strategic customer convos, so I have a strong point of view on your question.

    1. How to get customers to be heads up vs. heads down (tactical). Tip: Ask if you can take 10 - 15 minutes for a "step back" conversation, then ask a few disruptive (disrupt the customer's same ol' thought patterns) about their company's priorities and challenges and their team's broader priorities - instead of about your product and the value they perceive. Tell them you want to understand what's happening in their world, which will help your company be a better partner over the long term. Over 2/3 of customers who get this request from one of my clients schedules a call. (I have an email template for this.)
      1. Two examples of disruptive questions: (i) If I was a fly on the wall at your next board or executive leadership meeting, what do you think is the biggest priority or challenge I’d hear about? (ii) Q: What’s the one thing your company is absolutely counting on you to get done this year? 
      2. What I've learned during 2,600 customer discovery conversations is that customers are experts in their own business/job. They are not, nor do they aspire to be, experts in your product. This explains why they engage so much when you (a) ask about their business and their team's priorities, then (b) just go on mute and don't jump in to solve or sell. No agenda other than uncovering what they believe is important.
      3. Their answers will help you better position your product/solution against one of their big priorities or sub-priorities.
    2. Perhaps it's just me, but your wording here sounded understandably frustrated but even a bit anti-customer: "Some clients cannot see, refuse to see, or refuse to even care about the value and importance of the services we offer."
      1. The way I encourage teams to think of this is that clients just want to do their job well, perhaps get some recognition, feel professionally satisfied and achieve growth (if that's the path they're on). They're just humans trying to get stuff done. So empathy is in order. Unless they're toxic which is another story. I wouldn't think of them as flat out "refusing," but just not understanding why you're asking them to take a step back.
      2. So if you want to change their behavior, try modeling that behavior first. If you want them to be transparent, ask more authentic questions showing them you want their truth. If you want them to be strategic, position your "ask" per #1 above. Then all you have to do is listen to understand vs. listen to respond.
      3. IMX (in my experience) and the experience of the teams I work with, customers talk 70%+ of the time when you use these approaches.

    Hope this helps! Happy to chat any time.

    Best,

    - Bob

  • Brian O'Keeffe
    Brian O'Keeffe Member Posts: 204 Expert
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    You cannot force anyone to understand value and think strategically and that's not your job. I think it can be confusing and that might be what you are missioned with, but that's not what your customer cares about. It's all about building success, step by step. If that happens right out of the gate, fantastic. But do not expect it to be the norm.

    Build your relationships and the account strategically. It's the strategic thinking you can control. I have worked months, even years on accounts that remained in yellow status that we slowly brought to green. I looked for what was needed for that account at that time and slowly built the relationships that were needed moving my way through administrators, to directors, to the VP. Once I got to the point where it made sense to more strongly engage the right strategic thinker (or at least the business person more likely to be thinking strategically) I did. The key is showing value and having salient examples. If you can show a 20% reduction in cost, for example, or a secure system protected from ransomware and attacks, another example, or any other value proposition that resonates, you will can find your way to the strategic thinkers and your customer thinking more strategically.