When I was growing up, baseball was my life. I loved everything about the game and wanted deeply to be a professional baseball player. That’s when my obsession with hats started. I wore a hat every single day growing up. I would wear one on the field, I would wear on at school, I would wear one to the pool, and I would even wear one to sleep. It wasn’t just any hat though, it had to be an official new era fitted hat–– just like the ones worn in the MLB.
The problem with this obsession of mine was, as I grew, my fitted hat would no longer fit. When my fitted hat would get wet, it would shrink. I was constantly spending all my money on new hats because I was insistent on having one that was fitted rather than one that is adjustable.
Just like my obsession with hats, in customer-facing roles, we develop similar habits, styles, and comforts around what we know or what we want to be. Yet, these comforts create if not monitored closely can hinder performance.
We Want Something Fitted For Us
Let’s use customer engagement as an example. I have done X with Y customer and it worked. Therefore, I repeat X repeatedly with my other customers. I have done this now so many times, that I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s now second nature to me. My mind has done the activity one way so many times, my ability to see a new path to the same result is now clouded. I don’t even need to prepare for my meetings any longer because I know the content. Before I know it, I have created a one size fits all mentality with my customers. Has this happened to you?
It may be something as simple as a question you always ask your customers. It may be a presentation you give or a training or demo. Whatever it is, we do it without even realizing the repercussions of what we are doing. When our customers don’t respond to our message like those first customers did, we often blame the customer. “Oh they are not ready!” “Do they know what they even bought?” “Their executive sponsor is not engaged, they will never be successful!”
How to Avoid the “One Size Fits All” Approach
Here are three suggestions to avoiding a one size fits all approach and ensuring customer engagement:
Take your time to always do your research. Look up the company to understand what product or service they offer. What is the first thing you see on their website? What press releases have they recently announced? Who’s buying their solutions? Look up the people you will meet with. What experience do they have? Where are they from? How do they describe themselves? Connect with them on LinkedIn prior to your meeting with a personalized message––this will show you’re excited to know them and work with them as their vendor.
Now that you understand more about their business and the people you will be working with, customize your content. What questions will you ask? How does your product or service compliment their business? How can you leverage their previous work experience for successful outcomes? Adjust your slides, demo, or training if possible to have their branding and messaging incorporated throughout your talk track.
Engage at the right levels. Too often, I see individuals engage customer executive sponsors as if they are the technical guru. Prepare yourself for when the executive sponsor is on the call and leverage your research and customized content to that individual. Then, do the same thing with your application owner and then your technical guru. Give each person the respect of their position, time, and thought. If you fail to do this, you will fail to have the right people on the right calls at the right times.
At the end of the day, the one size fits all approach does not fit all. Your customers are unique, they are learning, and growing. Their business models are different. The Director of Customer Success at one company can mean one thing, when a Director of Customer Success at another can mean something totally different. As much as I love a fitted hat, I have learned that having one that is adjustable is a better long-term investment. If you want to invest in customer engagement, you have to be adjustable too!
This blog post is a part of a series of how to solve project management pain points.