4 questions to keep you customer-focused

Don't be afraid to ask your customer, How am I doing?

One of the primary differences between a traditional sales organization and one that is perceived differently because of its professional business development orientation is how it views the customer. Some organizations are inherently internally focused. These organizations spend an inordinate amount of time focused on achieving their own objectives. At those companies, internal processes and reporting often are valued higher than understanding their clients and knowing the value their organization brings to their customers.

On the other hand, customer-centric organizations put the customer at the center of attention. Everything these companies do is balanced against how the client perceives them and how much they value the organization and the services and products that it provides. Those organizations understand they are in business to solve client issues. Often the client’s interests supersede the organization's own corporate goals. Nothing is done without a clear understanding of how the change will affect the customer.

Is your organization customer-centric?

These four questions can gauge how customer-focused your organization really is.

  • Are customer inputs valued? In other words, do you as a business development professional act as the voice of your customers internally? Are you their advocate?
  • When making internal personnel or process changes, do you consider how these changes will affect the customer?
  • Do you know what your clients value most in the relationship, and are you aware of those areas where they are expecting you to improve?
  • Have you asked your clients how satisfied they are with your current level of effort?

If you didn’t answer yes to all the above questions, your organization might need to focus more on your customers.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote the following bit of wisdom, and given the economic climate we now face, it’s a perspective that everyone serving clients should embrace.

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

How often have you lost a re-compete or bid when you were convinced you were going to win? Complacency is usually the culprit, but such a negative outcome is easily avoided. To overcome complacency:

  • Ask your customers if you are meeting their expectations.
  • Ask how you can improve.
  • Make an effort to continually add value to the business relationship.

Just because no one in your client’s organization has told you that problems exist, don’t assume there aren’t any. Overlooking this simple question is the surest way to lose business you had banked with a 100 percent probability of winning.

Everyone in business has probably heard the saying, “The customer may not always be right, but they are final judge and jury.” Not meeting client expectations is the quickest way to undo all the effort you’ve invested in a capture — or worse, a program.

Remember that the customer comes first. Be sure to understand the value you bring to your business relationship from your customer's perspective.

About the Author

Bill Scheessele is the CEO of MBDi, a global business development services firm providing expertise in Business Development best practices in the national security, defense, scientific, energy and engineering industries. The firm offers BD consulting services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals and teams identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their new virtual training options at http://www.mbdi.com or 704.553.0000.

Reader Comments

Wed, Oct 21, 2009 Robert Dempsey http://blog.adsdevshop.com

Thanks for this post Bill. The 4 questions you pose can help get to the heart of whether or not a company is customer-centric. With the ever growing number of consumers using social media to relate and discuss their experiences with companies, business must consider the customer and their needs and wants, if for any other reason that if they don't they'll quickly gain a bad reputation online. Those that don't do so at their own risk. Frankly, I'm not going to take that risk.

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