CCRM: Consulting Customer Relationship Management

Managing customers through a complex sales process can be challenging, especially in a technology sale, where there will always be multiple constituencies within the enterprise one is targeting. Getting “buy in” from all these parties is difficult enough, but what happens after you are successful in getting all the stakeholders on board? You have gotten to “yes” but, in many cases, the “what” to which these different parties have agreed might be dissimilar. For example, marketing will have a different understanding and goals than IT, and of course, we all know what the thoughts are of finance and accounting.  

Here are some consultative tips for help in herding the cats once you have closed the deal. 

1)   Manage Expectations: Before you can manage expectations you need to have an understanding of what is expected. Communicate with the different constituencies; ask them what they expect. If their expectations are different than what was originally contracted or agreed, it’s time to realign. Hit reset and document. 

2)   Manage Scope Creep: Undoubtedly, during the implementation stage, the customer will ask for things that may not have been discussed in the proposal process. It is important to manage and document any potential special requests that may be asked for along the way. If you do agree to any additional deliverables, make sure they are documented and communicated to all involved. They may impact expectations; see number one above. 

3)   Know When to Say “NO”: We all have dealt with the aggressive customer, the dreamer, and the penny pincher. It is important to know your audience and act accordingly. Be the expert and the professional. If someone is pushing a timeline that is not achievable, tell them it is not feasible. You are protecting them and their business from themselves. If the dreamer is making requests for deliverable outside the scope of the technology capabilities, it’s your job to reeducate them. Set yourself and your customer up for success.  If your client is trying to cut corners and is increasing the probability of failure, tell them the story about the $5 haircut. Sure, you get your hair cut for $5, but it’s 10 times the cost and six months to fix it.  

4)   Be Confident: People do business with people, not companies. The reason you are where you are in the process is because you are good at what you do. Act like a hit-and-run sales rep, and you will be treated as one. If you have no confidence in yourself, don’t expect anything different from others. If you act like a confident business professional, people will treat you like one and will look to you for advice and direction. 

So I think we should change CRM to CCRM. Remember, the selling starts once the customer says “no.” The consulting starts once they say “yes.” Good hunting …

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