How to Use Client Intelligence for Better Results in Your Business MeetingsMarch 31, 2015 | By Wayne O'Neill
One of the most fascinating parts of my job is watching our clients learn how to aggregate, leverage and curate client intelligence within a capture plan. It’s not the “normal” way of managing a capture plan, and it makes many of our clients really nervous at first – until they see it work over and over again.
Client Intelligence is Fluid – and So Are Org Charts
Most of our clients start out this way: They fill out the capture plan, including business and political issues around their target customer, long before the scheduled meeting. They don’t realize that business and political issues are not static. They evolve up to the last minute before a meeting, shifting with what is really going on with the customer’s organizational chart.
Yes, the target customer’s org chart is part of the business and political issues our clients learn to track. Because people are not their titles. It is so seductive to think that people are their titles, but here’s a perfect example of why that is dangerous thinking:
Recently we were coaching our client in the pursuit of a city project and a county project. What we learned is that there was a shared executive relationship between the two projects – that there was someone who had knowledge of what was going on within the city and the county – but up until that point she had been ignored because of her title. She was hiding in plain sight.
When we dug deeper into who she really was, we discovered that this person had political connections and strategic insight that had up until that point been ignored because of her technical title.
I see this all the time. Our clients get obsessed with “How do we get to the CEO? How do we get to the highest decision-maker?” Well, sometimes the person you really need to get to is somebody that is hiding behind the limitations of an organizational title and structure.
This is the magic that can happen when you have a team of people – in this case a coach, a project manager, a client intelligence manager and our client – looking for what they don’t know about a target customer. With all these different angles, suddenly a very robust capture plan emerges. Factoids pop out left and right.
With this type of intelligence gathering, when our client goes to talk to their target customer, the discussion is one that is unexpected, fresh and helpful to both parties.
Using Client Intelligence in a Business Meeting
Without crossing the line into making the target customer think they’re being stalked, armed with this deep and broad client intelligence you can go into a client meeting and say, “Here are three things that we noticed. Here’s how we got that information. Here’s the way we think it relates to how we may be able to help you as a client.”
That is SUCH a different way to start a discussion or a meeting! It engages that customer right off the bat and they feel like you really did your homework.
It’s impossible to resist that.
Procurement mentality makes people resist “sales talk.” But approaching the meeting with client intelligence surprises people. It’s riveting.
The client intelligence process is often intimidating to our clients, actually. They worry that their target customer hasn’t gotten this information yet, and worry how they should handle that. They worry about being asked questions they don’t know the answer to. They worry about overcoming objections right from the beginning.
The key is to be okay not knowing everything. If you go into a meeting armed with how to overcome every objection, it leads to a stultified interaction and it really defeats the purpose of the meeting from the very beginning.
It’s okay to say, “We found this and we didn’t know what it meant, but here’s how we think it might connect.” It makes you sound interesting in a way the customer doesn’t expect. It’s a lubrication of communication that is hard to stop.
Traditionally these customer meetings would start with the donut dance: a description of your company, how long you’ve been in business, what you offer. There is no value in this – the customer has heard it from every other potential vendor. The customer wants to know what makes you different.
By having an in-depth, curated capture plan you are not just delaying that donut talk, you are giving yourself ten different options on how to connect with that customer.
The Bottom Line
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, approaching a customer meeting this way makes many of our clients very nervous. It’s not a “traditional” way of doing business. But what I see time after time is that by the 5th or 6th time my team has facilitated a conversation using our client intelligence methodology, our clients become so relaxed. They aren’t frightened of the meetings anymore because they know this capture plan is going to work.