Customer Due Diligence Equals a Seamless Sales Process
Customer due diligence is key to a seamless and productive sales process
For some executives, the sales process comes naturally and is seamless. However, for many, it is not natural nor is it seamless. It is a painful process that seems like it never goes anywhere or drags on forever. If you are in that group, we’ve put together a basic outline for you to pick and choose from as you formulate your own process and style when working with customer due diligence to introduction to engagement.
As much as you want business, not all leads are created equal and certainly not all companies. Every business and situation they are in are unique. As much as the company will be doing some due diligence on you, you should be doing the same. Not every opportunity is right for you and not every company is a good client. Think of the conversations with the potential client as you doing customer due diligence rather than an interview. Your goal is to get quality client leads, not just quantity.
Extract useful information
Due diligence is so easy to get useful information. Take the time and do it. Don’t leave anyone out. Review their social media, their website, blog, etc. You may find out some information to help connect and stay in touch or something that may question whether you want to do business with them. For example, a potential client where the company really needed help, the executive was excited to work with them, but the social media due diligence raised some red flags. It was heavily weighted with employees complaining about the company, more so than you would expect. The challenge is that the company never brought up any internal issues. The company didn’t even know it was out there, which helped reframe the priorities and work to be done.
The first meeting in customer due diligence
Start with everything you can find out about the company and who you will be speaking to. Between the internet and the source of the lead, you should walk into the first meeting having done quite a bit of research. If you aren’t familiar with the industry, include that in your research. This is a great time to connect with someone in your network which is from that industry. There is nothing more frustrating to a client than being asked questions the executive could have easily found out through some basic research. If your approach is to ask some basic questions to compare with your research, let the client know that you’d like to make sure you have all of the facts straight.
Your goals of the first meeting are to:
- Determine if you are the right fit (or even close to it)
- Determine if this is a company and/or assignment you are interested in taking
- Understand the client’s situation, what they need, what they are looking to accomplish and what types of results they are expecting. Get as much detail as you need to put this in writing along with how you would scope out your activities and deliverables to accomplish it.
The last one is by far the most involved and may sometimes take an additional meeting or conversation if:
- The client has not had this type of conversation before
- The responses are not very direct or concrete
- After going through it on your own, you have some follow-up questions
- You are receiving contrasting pieces of information with the various individuals have met
- Your first meeting is with a ‘qualifier’ and not the best individual(s) to be giving you this information
Be aware of the number of meetings the company is requesting of you and your time investment. Depending on the size of the company and the assignment, you may need to have separate meetings with various stakeholders due to availability or simply because it’s part of their process. Be cautious of meeting with the same individual(s) more than two times. Do their meetings stay focused on information needed to scope the assignment or have you begun the assignment?
Goals of customer due diligence
Think of the meetings as discovery and planning discussions rather than interviews. The goal is not to rehash your resume and answer the clients. To accomplish the goals outlined above, it should be an active discussion, with the client doing most of the talking. As the client explains situations you have familiarity with in your past, share those stories. Explain the similarities, what you did and the impact you had. Stay in tuned with what the client is saying and keep them relevant. Same goes for any questions you are asked. Answer the question you were asked, not the point you want to try and get across. Through an active discussion of understanding and planning, the client will get a better sense of what you can do and how you can help than anything else you could say.
Look to understand what their needs are, some issues they are having. Take all of the information and ask the right questions. Get as much detail as you can about the client’s needs and situation and apply what you have done in your past similar to this. How you have addressed similar types of issues. Stay focused on the client’s situation and begin solving the problem immediately. It turns the tables on the CEO, and we have seen their entire demeanor change during a meeting like this. They appreciate the executive has done their homework, and the executive is truly interested in solving their problems. It is a very different conversation than sitting across a table and just repeating your resume. Let the CEO do the talking and you ask the questions and guide the conversation towards one that is more about planning and solving than facts and stats. We see a lot of executives do this.