Ravi Kathuria: Is your customer engagement model an asset or a liability?

How well thought-out and executed is your customer engagement model? Is it something that has developed by default without proactive and deliberate thought? In your company, does every salesperson and service-delivery team member develop his or her own engagement model?

Simple sales typically involve commodity items such as printers or copiers. The customer’s engagement with the seller ramps down quickly after the sale.  

Complex construction projects, medical treatment and legal representation are examples of complex sales. The customer is acutely dependent on the seller’s services once the deal is inked. The service the customer buys has a material impact on the reputation and/or well-being of the customer.  

If your company is in the business of complex sales and you have not thought through and designed your customer engagement model in detail, your success is at risk. Consider these points: 

Apprehension, confusion and distrust

If a large construction project fails or is derailed, it may cost the customer executive his or her job. Customers involved in a complex sale are understandably apprehensive because of the risk factors and high stakes.

Further, every vendor promises high-quality and superior products. It is often overwhelming for customers to sift through all the claims and counterclaims about vendor capabilities and competencies. 

Your job, as a vendor, is to help reduce the confusion and address the apprehensions. If you do that, you will earn the customer’s trust and business. 

Reduce the noise

How do you reduce confusion and apprehension? You must develop and detail your customer engagement model. The vendor’s well-thought-out customer engagement process is the customer’s insurance against things going wrong.

You must start with the problem. Develop a model to describe the problems and needs so you and the customer can be on the same page.

Next, focus on the solution. Develop a model to explore possible solutions. Help the customer understand how he or she can influence the solution, and what factors constrain the solution choices.

Remember, you know more about the solution than the customer will ever know. They want to know that you have a systematic process to consider and analyze all the choices, and there is a way for the customer to guide you in aspects that matter to them.

You do not want your attorney to impart all his legal knowledge to you; all you want to do is understand the process enough so you can provide relevant information and know that the attorney is thinking things through and not overlooking items because he is extremely busy with his other clients.

Project implementation is part of the solution. Educate the customer about the steps involved, what the deliverables are at each stage that will demonstrate credible progress and what the gates/points are that the customer can provide input to fine-tune the project’s direction and thrust. Address the risks involved and explain how you will manage them. 

Engage the right team

Your credibility increases as you involve the right experts during the customer education process. It communicates to the customer you are serious. Customers do not always trust sales people and their promises, but they will almost always treat as gospel what your engineers and delivery-personnel say. 

Develop a comprehensive customer engagement model to earn credibility and trust. It is the best way to serve your customers. ● 

Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and WorldNews, Ravi Kathuria is a recognized thought leader. Featured on the BusinessMakers show, CBS Radio, TEDx and PBS Nightly Business Report, he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “How Cohesive is Your Company?: A Leadership Parable.” Kathuria is the president of Cohegic Corp., a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, and president of the Houston Strategy Forum. Reach him at (281) 403-0250 or f[email protected] cohegic.com.


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