Customers are the lifeblood of any organization. Whether you have the ability to meet with them face-to-face, or are required to so over Zoom due to our ever-changing reality, customer visits require intentionality. They also provide a golden opportunity to make your customers the North Star they should be – and improve literally everything about your organization as a result.
Why a Customer Visit is Worth Its Weight … in Actual Gold
How do we know a customer visit is critical to success? In 2019, we conducted research into sales and marketing alignment, in partnership with DRIFT. In it, we found a significant correlation between the most aligned sales and marketing teams (which were also the most revenue-generating teams) and their focus, not only around customers-centric metrics, but also regular visits with customers.
Planning Customer Visits is Key
Sometimes customer visits are inexpensive (like when they happen on Zoom). Still, just because you’re remote doesn’t mean the interaction has to feel inexpensive. In fact, you can still invest in the same sorts of things you did on-site. Think about buying lunch with an UberEats code. Or sending your customers a box with a bunch of goodies for the meeting. In other words, think about how you can make the “visit” an experience.
If someone falls into your target account list, and is likely to have a strong lifetime value in your business, they’re worth visiting. But you have to first make sure there’s mutual agreement around the desired outcome of such a meeting. In other words, why are you getting together?
There could be plenty of possibilities, but three main reasons almost always necessitate a customer visit:
- You’re close to creating a proposal. If you’re about to put together a proposal, a customer visit will help you achieve the tight alignment you need to make sure what you’re offering is a good fit with what the customer needs. This will likely come after multiple discovery calls and deep dives. You’ve figured out which challenge you want to solve, and have had conversations with various people that lead you to believe it’s time to create an official proposal.
- You recently created a proposal. (My recommendation is to make the customer visit happen before the creation of the proposal, but it’s better to go after than not at all).
- Upsell. An often underutilized function of customer visits are to the folks who already invested with you, but of course, this can be leveraged to further the relationship and ensure it stays. It can also be used to uncover additional insights into other products or services that may fit additional, previously undiscovered, challenges. You can also work to prevent customer churn by conducting a customer visit.
Who should be involved in a client visit?
After the “why” comes the “who.” Who needs to attend your customer visit to achieve your desired outcome? There could be a wide variety of internal stakeholders that you want to include. You might have people from business development, marketing, analytics, general managers or directors and/or someone from the C-Suite. There should only be people there who have direct input into and/or influence over the subject matter at hand; no one extra. Once you figure out who should be there, think about each of their differing priorities. If you’re unsure of someone’s priorities, ask them in advance. This will help you show up prepared.
Then consider who should be there from your side. Again, don’t bring anyone who doesn’t have a clear role. There’s no dedicated team that should go to customer visits; it varies based on the goal and the customer. You should know what the customer cares about before you head there. This helps you decide whether you need your CEO present or whether the principal on the account is sufficient.
Before the Visit
One of the best tips I can give you is to get all the skeletons out of the closet before you get in front of someone. For example, if your customer’s marketing leader beams about his 600 pieces of content, but the business development group complains they are out of date and impossible to find, do you want the first time the marketing leader hears that to be real-time, while you’re onsite? Trust me; you don’t. The whole meeting could go downhill fast.
You can work through potential issues by asking if there will be multiple budget stakeholders in the room. If so, as it relates to this project, find out whether they will be contributing some of their budget to the meeting’s desired outcome. If so, what does that look like? These questions can help you spot any areas of potential friction before you’re ever in the room.
Preparation is Prince
The content of your meeting is king, but preparing properly to share that content is certainly a strong runner up. Make sure each attendee has a very specific role, and then prepare the right presentation. Consider the following question to guide your preparation:
- Are you sharing a slideshow? Audio? Video?
- What assets will you use before the meeting, during the meeting and after the meeting?
- How will you leverage small, breakout rooms to facilitate conversations vs. all-together, large group dynamics?
- Do you need slides, overheads, pens, markers, etc.? If so, it’s a good idea to send these ahead!
- Do you need a backup plan? For instance, what if your computers don’t work; do you have a hard copy of your presentation?
Then, it’s time to rehearse. Spend time with your team actually going through the presentation before heading to the customer. Talk about who will cover which slides, and how the flow will go. Make sure you’re bringing value to the customer and the tone of the meeting will be what they’re expecting. Finally, send over a message summarizing the purpose of getting together. I like to call this the DOGMA – Details Outlining Goals & Meeting Agenda. I tell them this is what we agreed to, and offer them a chance to come back and add to it or edit what I’ve sent.
During the Client Visit
Here are a few tips for the meeting itself:
- Watch for signs of misalignment. This often looks like one person repeatedly whispering to another, or in Zoom world, obviously Slacking. If someone is smiling during your presentation and you’re being serious, they’re probably talking about something else with someone on their computer. Even if you notice this, don’t mention it in front of the whole group. Instead, note it for later.
- What you can explore directly and immediately are the subtle expressions that indicate someone doesn’t buy into what’s being presented. If these things happen, try to draw it out so it can be addressed in the room. Don’t be afraid to just say, “Sally, it looks like you might have something to share.” If there are corporate politics involved and you can’t draw out the issue, try to have a conversation privately in person or via a private Zoom chat. But stay in tune with all parties as much as you can by reading body language, tone of voice and so on.
Note: This insinuates that when on Zoom everyone has their camera on. Everyone should have their camera on.
- Record the meeting. Some people get weird about recordings, but having your meeting recorded can go a long way in helping you clarify issues later or capture something that even the best notetaker might miss. If you think someone might not like the idea, have a colleague dial into the meeting and record the call. You can say something like, “Peter couldn’t be here in person, but he wanted to call in.” It’s an easy, subtle way to get a recording to happen without making anyone feel uncomfortable. Enlist a dedicated note taker, but ask all attendees to take notes.
- Leverage a “Parking Lot.” If someone brings up an idea or thought that isn’t perfectly relevant to where you are in the agenda, jot it down in a “Parking Lot” that you can revisit at the end of the meeting – or afterward.
- Don’t leave the room without recapping what went on, with details and next steps. “This was our desired outcome and here are the five things we discussed. Numbers one through four have been hashed out, but we need to spend more time on number five so let’s set up a call ASAP to flesh that out more.” Make sure to spell out who owns what, and the agreed upon timeline so you set the expectation for accountability.
After the Visit
You had your meeting. Now what? This is where you make or break the trust and credibility you worked so hard to create. I suggest sending a quick email to all involved parties, again reiterating what was discussed and the next steps. But take it a step further and get a handwritten thank-you note in the mail that same day. The content should be different – make it personal and send it out fast, and you’ll blow your customer’s socks off. Really.
After you’ve sent the customer a summary, create a customer visit report for your internal teams. A customer visit report should include:
- Action items
- Positive highlights
- Risks and opportunities
- Any other key observations and notes
Customer visit reports can also be given to clients, or sent in lieu of the email suggested above. After you’ve written up the most important information, it’s time to start taking action.
Take the lead by holding up your end of the bargain. Take care of any items for which you’re responsible, and set up any follow-up meetings that were discussed immediately. The power of a customer visit can quickly be deflated by distraction – and a lack of action – when it’s over.
How We Can Help Your Client Visit Planning
So, which customers or prospects deserve your time and attention onsite? Make a list, and get to scheduling. It’s the step you’ve been missing toward better alignment and better results too. Need support with any of these tactics? Shift Paradigm is a full-service partner for any organization that wants to stay agile in the current digital landscape. Our customer engagement services provide the complete package to keep your customers invested in your products and organization. Interested? Contact Shift Paradigm today!