Talk to the correct contact level in your customer’s language!

In this post I will tell more about the importance of the right contact person to talk to and how speaking the customer’s language has a positive effect on customer engagement and success.

There are on average 6.8 people involved in decision making in 2017 compared to 5.4 people in 2015 (Gartner)

Since the lifecycle of ships is so long, you need to engage with different people throughout the lifecycle. Each stage your current customer contacts have different roles in their own organisation:

  • Initiators: Those who request that something be purchased
  • Users: Those who will use the product/service
  • Influencers: People who influence the buying decision
  • Deciders: People who decide on product/service requirements
  • Approvers: People who authorize the proposed actions of deciders or buyers
  • Buyers: Those having formal authority to select the vendors and arrange terms
  • Gatekeepers: People who have the power to prevent sellers or information from reaching members of the buying center

As said, on average 6.8 people are involved in decision making and it is up to you in Sales and Marketing to identify these key people and to differentiate your value proposition in such a way that each message is relevant to different contacts throughout your customer’s organization. Each contact has a different role or job-to-be-done in the organization and during in the lifecycle. If you want to send a message that appeals to them, you must understand their role in that phase of the lifecycle. There will be contacts responsible for the planning of the investments; Others will be involved in the newbuilding stage, and again others in operations and modernization, etc. Per phase your value proposition must be different.

Some information you can share digitally (make sure you send the correct information through the correct channel) and for more complex issues you might need to sit down with your customer to gain his/her trust and co-create a creative solution for his/her need.

Regional differences

Also important for you to recognize is that there are regional differences in this global market. In some countries personal interaction (inside and outside a business environment) is the way to the buyer’s heart (and wallet) and in other countries it is through digital channels where the first connection is made. Take into account that also the digital channels differ by region (e.g. WeChat in China, Line in Japan, Whatsapp in Europe). Also there are differences in website structure. For example in Europe we have a tendency to use clean, spacious designs, while Chinese people dislike white spaces.

Conversation topics differ per lifecycle stage

The topic we talk about with our customers also differs per stage in the lifecycle, per customer contact and per offer we have.

88% of executives value having business conversations 4 times more than product conversations (SiriusDiscussions).

Technical suppliers often open the door with a talk about the technology they can offer. They often seek a discussion partner in the technology department of the customer. But if you really want to be involved throughout the whole customer lifecycle you also need to get used to talking about topics like Net Present Value and Total cost of Ownership and talk to the financial department or general management about how you can support them reaching their (financial) objectives. Make sure you know their KPI’s. Discuss for example the Environmental Ship Index with the sustainability people.

Sadly enough executives say only 24% of sales people they encounter understand their business, while 88% are knowledgeable about their own products (Forrester).

To whom do you talk and about what?

I invite you to reflect on your own business interactions, own contacts and evaluate if you are reaching your targets through your current contacts along these three questions:

  1. Who in your customer’s organization should you focus on? Who can decide? How does the customers decision chain looks like and are you effective enough to influence the right contacts?
  2. The second question is related to the first – but here I wanted to angle the question around who you actually are speaking to currently and on what should your message be focusing on?
  3. The third question is related to digitalization and innovation and how that will affect your customer relationships and dialogue with customers in the future.

Posted on 2019 aug 26.