Early engagement for more successful lifecycle selling

Through my years in the marine industry, I learned that early engagement with our customers is important. We are a much better partner for our customers when we support them already during business planning. It is in this phase, that they need to make tough decisions about financing and design. But how do you get involved in such an early stage?

Let’s assume you have a customer who wants to expand his/her fleet. Do you want to discuss already with the ship owner, in the decision making phase or do you want to wait till the ship yard asks you for a request for quotation? This is not such a tough choice, is it? Still it is very common in our industry that sales cases at marine suppliers only start when the RFQ from the yard comes in – and thus there is very little still to influence the design concept nor the decision.

Growing with your customers requires innovation – innovation requires a new engagement model.

Also Gartner Research has found that 70% of B2B buyers want to involve suppliers during pre-sales. They state: “If the sales representative from the supplier can take the extra time to really home in on the uniqueness of each opportunity, there is tremendous value that can be added to the buying cycle — especially in the eyes of the customer.”

Why should we spend time on early engagement and better activation of the customer base? There are many reasons for this, I highlight a few here:

  1. The ability to affect the customer’s design concept and influence their buying decision to your advantage.
  2. Opens up the possibility to build relationships with decision makers higher up in the organisation.
  3. Differentiating from competition and better margins. You have a competitive advantage and the opportunity to sell on value to the customer instead of price.
  4. Higher business results: successful early engagement will increase your hit rates, increase your scope of supply and evidently improve your margins.

How do you engage with your customers? Is it early enough? How do you start your conversation? Your comments are very much welcome, since there is not that much written yet about things like this, especially not in our own marine industry, where we deal with projects  with long lifecycles and customers with long customer journeys.

I regularly post about my experience in Sales and Marketing in industrial companies that deal with customers with long decision making processes, because of high risks of high capital investments. My focus is mostly on the maritime industry, but my advice applies also to other industries with similar characteristics.

Posted on 2019 sep 28.