Your Customer’s Customer: Serve Them To Survive
Profitably serving your customers today has never been harder. Whether it’s keeping them sold, satisfying them after the sale, resisting their demands for more concessions and getting to pay you, their behavior is impacting you in new and painful ways.
Individually, your buyers are operating in a state of fear. Primarily, the fear their jobs will be eliminated because of either a mistake they make or a sudden decision their leaders announce. Given this, it is not surprising to understand that they operate with a very short term perspective and as much from protecting themselves as doing what’s right for the company.
Another condition your customer faces is their increased dependence on the next order or demand placed by their customers. With cash so tight, they are making decisions only when and if the next tranche of customer receivables hits their company’s bank account.
What does this mean for you in serving your buyers and companies in these conditions?
You must understand who your customer’s ultimate decision maker is and get as close to them as possible. Whether it is the CFO, the president or general manager, working directly face-to-face with them is critical. Your normal buyer just does not have the same authority or responsibility as in normal times. If you face resistance in building this relationship, question how much credit, cash or resources you really want to risk.
Once you are working with the decision maker, learn what his or her customers’ goals are. The more you two can align your efforts and collectively work to make his or her customer successful, the easier it will be for both of you to get paid. Here are some examples:
- Instead of replenishing your customers inventory, set up a fill system based on when your customer’s customers place orders.
- Make joint sales calls on his customers to fully understand how they are faring and how you can collectively reduce their costs or make them more money.
- When it comes to extending credit, work with your customer’s CFO to match your payments to when they are paid by their customers.
While this idea of collaborating around your customer’s customer may seem intrusive and even offensive to some of your customers, it has the following benefits:
- It gives both of you an objective standard by which to make tough financial decisions.
- It creates a win-win relationship where you are both working together for your common success.
- The additional knowledge and wisdom you will gain on how your customers will succeed will bond you closer together.
So how can you start learning how to serve your customer’s customer?
- Ask dozens of questions about how they use your customer’s products and how doing so makes them money.
- Learn about their financials and their business model.
- Just as you would with your customer, partner with their customer around solutions that create positive outcomes and cash flow.
- Set clear objectives for results that are measurable and valuable.
Working with your customer’s customer upgrades your relationship with your buyer. The knowledge you gain strengthens your bargaining power both immediately and for years to come. No longer can or should your customer say, “I can’t do anything until my customer places an order.” Instead they will say, “Let’s work together to help our customer place the order.”
Want help with your customer service or business growth? Contact Andy Birol using the form below.