For many businesses clients and customers are targets for product announcements and future purchases. While we could debate whether this mindset is good or bad, for this post let's keep “good” and “bad” out of it. Rather let's approach the conversation from this viewpoint – if a business views it's clients and customers merely as targets to be sold to, that business is missing out big time.
As a consultant, a false and dangerous idea for me is to think that I have all the answers for my clients though they have none for me. This could not be further from the truth. In fact there is a metric ton that I can learn from my clients, and I don't mean simply how to sell them on more products and services.
Take for example Lauri Flaquer of Saltar Solutions. Here's a lady with many years in business who has helped create great prosperity for her clients – just check out the testimonials her clients have given her. Our relationship started with my becoming a client of hers (more than a few years ago) after interviewing her for Life Of The Freelancer. Since then she has become a client of mine (check out the recent redesign) and referred me business. However that isn't where our relationship ends.
As entrepreneurs we are kindred souls. We frequently talk business and give each other advice, none of which is billable on either side. We don't worry about that because we know that both of us benefit. Our collaboration helps the clients we have in common and those we don't. It's a win-win-win for Lauri, myself, and all of our clients.
Another of my clients, Pete Machalek and Dean Hyers of SagePresence, are two ex spy-trainers who have helped their clients land more than $1B in combined business. How? They train their clients to be able to present themselves when it counts, be it a multi-million dollar sales pitch or a CEO talking with investors. Knowing what Pete and Dean can do, doesn't it behoove me to talk with them about more than my latest hosting product? Yes it does.
Anthony Eden of DNSimple is an American entrepreneur living in France with his family. He works full-time for a little site called Living Social while building DNSimple with his brother Darrin. Anthony is a brilliant programmer working amongst brilliant programmers. He's been a father for a number of years and spoken at many technical conferences. He also works online and travels a bit. There is a ton I can learn from Anthony, and fortunately he allows me to pick his brain every once in a while.
I could continue listing examples, but I won't.
Most CRM systems are not set up for this because this view doesn't fit this existing paradigm. For years this information has been in the hands of sales people, if in anyone's hands. However it's this information that can truly help your business grow beyond the limited revenue that one customer brings to the table.
Begin by having more conversations with your customers. Find out what knowledge and skills they have. Perhaps run a search on LinkedIn – they seem pretty keen on all of us adding all the skills we have. Add this information to your current systems and be sure you can search for it when the need arises, or someone in your organization (perhaps you) wants to learn more about the people you serve.