Ever try to tune a musical instrument?
Take a guitar for example; there is a tuning peg for each of the six strings on a standard guitar — a half-turn of just one of those pegs in either direction and your jam sessions can go from perfect harmony to catastrophic cacophony. Every client meeting is also subject to the same risk if you’re not in tune with your customer.
Some musicians are skilled enough to tune their guitars by ear, but when I took guitar lessons I was taught to use a pitch pipe. A pitch pipe is a small handheld set of specifically tuned pipes with just six notes (E-A-D-G-B-E), Thinks of it as a minimalist harmonica. You blow in one of the pipes to hear a note as it should be, and then you play the associated string on your guitar to compare the two notes, making adjustments to the tuning pegs on your guitar until you get the two sources to sound as identical as possible.
You may have seen singers warming up and ask an accompanying pianist to play a note on the piano which they try to match with their voice. Just as the singer is going to accompany the pianist in a performance, salespeople accompany a customer in a performance with every meeting they are in together.
Compare notes with your customers to stay in tune
Just as the piano player and the singer each played a note to compare with each other at the start of their performance preparation process, one way to stay in tune with your customer is to compare notes at the beginning of your meeting.
If you’re meeting for the very first time you should state the purpose of your visit and anything you hope to accomplish by the end of the meeting to make sure it matches the expectation of your prospect. If you think the prospect is going to sign a contract by the end of your meeting and your prospect knows that contracts for your type of service is only negotiated at the beginning of the year, you’re not in harmony with each other.
In my typical process as a marketing consultant, I have an initial discovery session with the client and then go off to do research and idea generation to create a campaign strategy that accomplishes the goals/solves the problem/wins an opportunity we discussed in that original discovery session. The problem is, while I’m off in the Batcave coming up with a plan, the world continues to spin and things change.
When I get back together with my customer to present my plan, I always make it a point to review a list of bullet points about the important elements we previously discussed that were used to develop the plan in front of them.
Mr. Customer, when we met last time you told me…
- You’re planning on opening 10 new locations in the next 6 months
- It was vital that consumers in those new regions were introduced to your brand and services
- And you wanted to plan a series of in-store events
Then I ask a very important question…
“Has anything changed since the last time we met that would impact these original guidelines?”
Can you imagine walking into a client’s office to pitch a strategy based on these specs right at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak? A plan based on those strategies goes right out the window!
But if I didn’t check to see if we were still in tune with each other, I would have wasted their time (and mine), and probably gave them the impressions I was completely out of touch with their business goals — even though I had based my proposal on everything they told me.
Taking time to verify that you and your customer are still in tune will keep your pitches from falling flat and allow the two of you to make beautiful music together.