“That was brilliant! The ESP (Executive Sponsor Program) is one of the best vehicles I’ve seen to get a complete view of the customer and our long-term future with them.” That’s the message we received following a recent ESP meeting. And it’s a fairly typical one. What made this comment particularly interesting is that it came from one of our skeptics… the sales manager who wasn’t so crazy about the idea of his company’s executive team meeting one-on-one with his customer.
When we first introduced the idea to him, he was very reluctant. We were seeking alignment with the sales team and were going through a series of questions regarding his relationship with his customer. It was good. He was working directly with several individuals and had a good understanding of their business needs, their likes and dislikes. He didn’t really need to learn anything from them as he had been working with them for years and he knew what they needed. They were one of his biggest accounts. He was their primary contact and had been for quite some time. Quite frankly, he did not want anyone else talking with his customer. What if they said or did the wrong thing? What if the conversation went down the wrong path? This customer alone was responsible for a significant share of the company’s revenue, not to mention his own income! It was just too risky. But what could he do? So fearing the unknown, he went along with the plan and agreed to set up the meeting. Deep down, he believed (and hoped) that it would be a waste of time. He knew nothing new would be learned and that his client was already buying all that was possible.
Boy was he surprised! New opportunities were discovered, sales increased and his company’s relationship with his customer became stronger than ever! Why? … because they engaged with one another on an individual and personal basis. They listened to one another and discovered things they would not otherwise have learned. These early insights led to increased satisfaction, improved solutions and increased sales. The customer appreciated being heard and having input to the company’s strategies. They appreciated the executive team’s time, and more importantly, they felt valued. And indeed they were!
So what’s holding you back? Are you afraid of the unknown?