Don't Bite Off More than You Can Chew

I have armed you with information that has gotten you through the majority of the customer selection phase for your Annual Customer Review program; a clear focus on the Decision Makers within your Core customer segment. The last step in customer selection is to settle on the number of customers to include in the program. A lot depends on the abilities of your sales force and what infrastructure support you have to assist with the launch and on-going support of the program.

How many customers do you want to include in the program?

The number of customers to include in the program will drive many of the infrastructure needs for the program. A list of 25 customers will require far less support than a customer list of 75 – 100. Keep in mind that the program will require time and support from Sales, Training, Program Administrators, the Program Sponsor and the Program Manager.

The time required of Sales is centered on the time necessary to conduct customer discovery with the key customer participants. Smaller chunks of time are required for request submission, approvals and the actual customer meeting. Are you asking Sales to add more to their already overfilled plate? How many Customer Reviews can they realistically handle in a year’s time?

A program requirement set by the Program Sponsor usually includes the number of customers that will be in the program. Has the Program Sponsor set unrealistic expectations for the number of customers to include? In order to manage the Program Sponsor’s expectations, it is my recommendation to incorporate a phased approach to roll out the customers in the program. A phased approach will eventually get you to the number of customers the Program Sponsor has requested, but in a more manageable fashion.

After you have determined the number of Customer Reviews your sales force can deliver, and you understand the customer goal set by your Program Sponsor, you may find that the customer list is still too large to support. You may want to implement some selection criteria in order to prioritize the top, most strategic customers. A few things you may want to consider if you need to scale down your customer list:

  • Don't include customers that are less than a year old
  • Select customers that are financially stable
  • Assure that no contract negotiations or requests for proposal are in process
  • Identify customers that want to invest in a relationship with your organization

Once you have a customer list that best represents your Core customers and the list appears to be manageable, the next step is to identify who will be responsible for the day-to-day program activities.  In my next blog we will take a look at the role of the Program Administrator and Program Manager; two roles that are essential to launching and sustaining your Annual Customer Review program.

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