“March Madness” used to refer just to college basketball in the US. Given our current economic realities the term takes on a whole new meaning. In the current environment, the three messages we keep repeating are:
· Double-check your alignment. Is everyone in your organization clear about, “Who are we? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What’s my role?” Make sure everyone’s on the same page. It speeds things up and reduces missteps.
· Avoid “Recession Regression.” Trying times call for cool heads and clear decision-making. Now is not the time to give in to negative emotions and bad habits. That just makes things worse. Breathe deeply. Think carefully. Act boldly.
· Execute! Execute! Execute! Operational excellence pays off big time in a situation like this. Stay focused and keep it moving forward.
Regarding execution, it makes sense to redouble our efforts to build and deepen customer intimacy. The cycle is shorter and cost much less than replacing a key customer lost because of poor execution or a lack of focus. Here are some reminders (a Top Ten list of Customer Intimacy, if you will) to help us all come out ahead during March Madness:
- Inquiry before advocacy. (The customer’s agenda is the one that matters. Find out what it is and help to achieve it.)
- Add value to your product or service with thought leadership.
- Focus communications. Less is more. Don’t add to the chatter.
- Go where your customers are. Meet them in their channel.
- Don’t get sucked into the problem du jour. What is the conversation that matters? How can we deepen the relationship and contribute more value?
- Be bold. Challenge their assumptions. They want to cut costs or reduce spending? Fine. Are you a good cost or a bad cost? Make your case.
- Help them put their challenges into context. Grow your awareness of their market and be their thinking partner.
- Everything can change between meetings. Expect it and be ready. Be highly adaptable. Think contingencies and alternatives.
- See the system. Who can influence your customer? Who might replace your customer? It pays to know.
- Listen more; talk less. (Okay, this is a rewording of #1. But it bears repeating.)