Pay it Forward to Develop Great Customer Coaches
In today's challenging and complex selling environment, having a great customer coach (or better yet, customer coaches) can mean the difference between winning and losing your next big deal. By customer coach we mean anyone inside or outside the organization who can help you and wants you to succeed. We’ve probably all had these coaches or advisors in the past, and once we identify them, they can be worth more than their weight in gold.
Where do good coaches come from?
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how we developed our most trusted coaches – often they evolve over some period of months or years without us really knowing it. Many times they come from existing or former customers, former employees, administrative assistants, outside vendors, friends and colleagues. Once they trust you and are looking out for you, their information and influence can mean the different between winning your next big deal or having to explain to your spouse why the competition swooped and stole your year-end bonus.
What can a good coach do for you?
If you think back to when you’ve had a good coach in an account, think about what they did for you. A good customer coach can:
- Help you understand the business problems and who cares about the solutions.
- Let you know who’s who in the organization how they feel about your proposal.
- Provide you with information not generally available outside the organization.
- Make introductions for you and get you access to key stakeholders.
- Alert you to competitive threats within the account.
- Preview materials and presentations for you and alert you to red flags or problem areas.
More importantly, what you can do for your coach?
Good coaches aren’t developed overnight. Why would they want to do these great things for you? Typically because you’ve proven yourself to them, you’ve added value for them in some way and you’ve created a situation where they want you to win. You must add more value to their equation than you are taking out.
The best way to begin to develop a coach is to do nice things for people and go out of your way to provide extra value and service without any expectation of something in return. You have to “pay it forward” and realize that it won’t always result in a tangible return on your time invested. Some of the things you might do for a prospective coach include:
- Provide interesting industry information or content that is relevant to their job.
- Introduce them to people within your network who can help them achieve their business or personal goals.
- Assist them with an event or project outside of your direct responsibilities.
- Offer consulting or services for a small task free of charge.
- Use your resources to help find a solution or answer to a problem they have.
By showing your care, you are thinking of them and you are willing to invest in the relationship you will often find that they are more than willing to pay back the favor by helping you out. The trick is that you have to “go first,” and be genuine in offering assistance without immediate expectation of a pay back.
How can you develop your network of coaches?
- Be on the lookout for potential coaches.
- Find out what motivates them and how you can help them meet their objectives.
- Always connect on LinkedIn with contacts within your accounts and develop relationship across functions and positions.
- Confide in them and ask for support in building networks with influencers and decision makers.
- Go out of your way to nurture these relationships, check in frequently but don’t abuse the relationship.
- Consider handwritten thank-you notes, a small token of appreciation or an unexpected phone call to let them know you appreciate them.
If we believe that customer coaches can provide us with significant insights and value to help us win deals, then it makes sense that we should be strategic and intentional about developing them. Be on the lookout for people that you can develop a mutual level of trust and respect in a way that allows you to help each other achieve your objectives. By truly taking a “pay it forward” approach you will begin to create a network of coaches who can ultimately help you win more business.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.