How to engage with customers in fast developing markets

group of ideas in network

© Tweeter Linder 2016 – All rights reserved. Photo by iStock.

The way we engage with customers change as the pace in the market goes up and uncertainties increases. And we face a challenge to balance customer and shareholder values with the new risk and reward profile. A reality requiring harder work to secure you create and capture value.

Earlier Explorative Engagements

The first step used to be to understand customer needs. But the new reality is to engage before needs are clear. Often at at point where it is difficult to qualify and quantify an opportunity.

Expect to engage earlier and with more uncertainties from start. Be ready to explore with your customer and to contribute in defining and refining needs.

And see a high level of initial uncertainties as the norm. Where understanding risks will become one of your critical skills.

Refuse Rejecting Requests

Your gut feeling for some opportunities might be they are dead straight out of the gate. It can be tempting to turn such opportunities down immediately.

By rejecting an opportunity early, you limit the potential of your customer relationships. Even if your rejection is made on sound facts. Customers let down by a partner early, even once, for an idea they believe in will lose a bit of the trust in you.

Adopt a principle if always engaging and if exiting, do it later. As opportunities are develop earlier you need to plan for a higher amount of failures. But it will be hard to spot winners from losers upfront.

Instant Innovation Interfaces

We are living in the instant economy. Customers expect instant access to you and your team to develop their ideas. Customers expect instant answers to questions raised as part of your collaborations.

What separates winners from losers in such markets are agile teams and team members. You need to plan for shorter planning horizons. The need for speed is a given. But the differentiator how you enable your team to act fast.

How anyone in yoru company can access insight in your company have. How insights from the customer interface propagate fast to the back office. And last but not least, a responsive culture where you act and revert fast with adequate quality.

Excel @ Exceptional Experiences

The role of the buying experience stand for 53% of the customer loyalty drivers. With the second factor coming in at 19%, a tie between Brand & Company value and Product & Service offerings.

How you manage these fast paced engagements determine the buying experience you deliver. The responsibility on the sales team to deliver a great buying experience is big. But it is not all bad news.

Your frequent and innovative interactions give you new opportunities.  where you can measure the experience you provide in each interaction. And each member of the team plays a part in delivering a great experience. Making it the best lead measure you and your team can adopt. To drive incremental change in perceived buying experience.

Rocky Risk Reality

The higher degree of innovation the higher the business risk associated with the opportunity. As few things are clear from start you should consider adopting a clear business risk focus from start. A reality where you start from hypothesis of the main drivers for the business. The fundamental drivers behind the unit volumes. How different pricing schemes contribute to accelerating or slowing down adoption. And last but not least the slope of the curves in the TCO analysis defining customer business cases.

This is an area where you need to aspire to be ahead of your customers in predicting the market and business drivers. The predictions driving the business case are not always the aligned with reality. Deviations between the two add to your business risk.

Plan for a rocky ride but with a clear perspective on the risk profile for new opportunities.

Remontant Revenues & Returns

As the opportunities advance your role is to secure that you get a fair share of the value created. For innovative opportunities it is easy to get trapped.  Between high initial costs and capped revenues when the market take-off.

In a collaborative partnership between customers and vendors you strive for a dual purpose model. One making sense for both parties. “Either you win or I lose” is not the return you should agree to when embarking on customer led innovative journeys.

Set clear expectations upfront. Your first priority is to secure an aggressive market adoption agenda as seen from a volume perspective. Second you need a business model delivering both customer and shareholder value.

Questions to ask to yourself and your team

  1. Who is the driving party in our customer led innovation pursuits – it should be your customer but it is not always true.
  2. What is the amount of opportunities brought to your table – understand if you are opportunity or execution constrained.
  3. What is the level of clarity of an opportunity brought to you – expect a high variance in opportunity maturity.
  4. Do you have a suitable structure in place for fast turn-arounds – put emphasis on both pace and quality in your responses.
  5. How mature are your team in articulating and managing business risks – and art growing in importance.
  6. What business model innovation initiatives do you need to secure a share of the pie – don’t expect a fair game unless you are part of setting up the rules.

Additional reading suggestions

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