Bringing the Clients In

By Lain Ehmann

One of the best ways to energize your sales team, offer a fresh perspective for your event and create strong bonds with your customers is to include them in your sales meeting. There are a number of different capacities in which your clients can participate, from asking them to co-host to simply inviting them to attend the event.

While merely having your customers or prospects mix and mingle with your sales force can be a way of furthering relations between staff and clients, that level of involvement may be a waste of valuable resources. “One of the problems is that organizations don’t maximize the opportunity,” says Bill Gager, president of the consulting and coaching firm, Gager International. Here are some of Gager’s dos and don’ts when bringing your customers to your meeting.

  • Choose the right customers. “The best customers to invite are the toughest customers, the most demanding,” says Gager. Why? They’re going to have the most motivation for becoming deeply involved in the event because they want to be understood, he explains. Ray Pelletier, CSP, founder and president of the Pelletier Group, recommends you select high-profile clients who have credibility.
  • Don’t limit yourself. Pelletier suggests selecting three different customers to participate in the meeting. Each might demonstrate a different vertical market or a different product implementation, for example.
  • Prep the customers. Make sure the customers know what is expected of them. Let them know all the details such as: When will they speak? Will they participate in a panel or will they be on their own? How long will they be expected to speak? What topics should they cover? Is there anything in particular you want them to stress? What is the theme of the meeting and how do they fit into the overall picture?
  • Go beyond the obvious. When asked, virtually all customers will say they buy from you because you offer good value for the money, great service or high quality. Everyone likes “labeling words,” says Gager, but you have to go beyond the obvious. “You need them to define what their critical issues are from a business perspective and how your products help solve those critical issues,” he says. “That’s why people really buy.”
  • Have a structure. Pelletier recommends asking customers to answer three questions: What are three things they like about your company and product? What are three things you do well? What are three things you can improve on?
  • Treat the customers like gold. Make a fuss over your customers. Give them a “meaningful gift,” says Pelletier. Make sure you tell them thank you repeatedly and honor, honor, honor them, he says. “Make it fun and make it a big deal,” he says.

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