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“Next” Practice for Building Customer Interest and Trust

by Hank Barnes  |  August 14, 2018  |  10 Comments

I am not a fan of most “best practices” as they generally reflect ideas that “everyone is doing.”  As a result, they are great for becoming more efficient, but they often don’t help you stand out.  But “next practices” are things that not everyone does.  They could help you stand apart from alternatives.  I was thinking of one the other day that inspired this post.

The inspiration–#FridayFails (for fans, more are coming starting this week).    In those posts, a regular theme is a plea for marketing, SDRs, and/or sales reps to be more prepared and targeted.   But, I acknowledge, sometimes it is hard to know what matters to the customer (although a failure to do some basic preparation is inexcusable).   That is where the idea came from.   But it is not about getting that initial interest.  It’s for what happens next.

Source: Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Source: Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

After you’ve had an initial conversation that had some level of discovery,  you should know something more about the customer and their challenges/interests.  Now you can take meaningful action.

Next Practice Idea: Make this a mandatory follow-up of any call where you learn something from the customer.

  1. Based on the discussion, the SDR/rep searches for information that is relevant to the discussion (on the Internet or other sources that the customer could access).
  2. Identify 2 to 3 pieces of  “independent” content–not from the company and not about your products–that you will share with the customer.  (Share followups about your products and services when it makes sense, but keep that separate from this.)
  3. Send the links to them with some commentary on why you chose them and why you think they should read it.

I have not heard of this being a practice that anyone follows (and I asked a few folks I trust and they felt the same), but here is why I believe it would be of value:

  1. It shows that you listened, that you care, and that you are willing to do some work for the customer
  2. It builds trust as you demonstrate that helping them is not solely about you, your company, and your products/services
  3. It should trigger interest in further engagement.  As that evolves, and your products fit, you can shift more focus there.

A side benefit might be that it may help you think about discovery a little differently, working harder to uncover issues and challenges that can be explored and researched.

Thoughts?  Is this doable?  Anyone willing to try it and share the results?

I’m excited about the possibilities.  It may not get them focused on your products as soon as some would like.  I’d counter that focusing on the customer is more likely to guide them back to you than peppering them with product info too soon.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: discovery  preparation  prospecting  trust  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on “Next” Practice for Building Customer Interest and Trust

  1. This is a great idea, Hank. At Protegrity we use a third party tool called Smarp ( to enable all our customer-facing colleagues to share useful, independent content to their social networks. The goal is to help our team build credibility as a trusted source of information for our customers and prospects. Those same articles could definitely be sent to prospects directly when appropriate.

  2. Goron Hogg says:

    Buyers tell me that initial calls from sales reps are confusing and uncomfortable. Sales reps tell me that these initial calls start slow and end fast. If the lead information that reps are getting doesn’t help the rep to understand the criteria that’s driving the prospects internal decisions whether or not to fund a project, you can begin to understand why these calls end so quickly.

  3. Dave Brock says:

    This is brilliant Hank! Both for the reasons you mention and for derivative reason in building the sales person knowledge and skill in leading with insights.

    A couple of things that I think are really unique about the idea:

    1. Insights delivered after the first call will be, if the sales person does the right job, be directly relevant to the discussion and the customer concerns.
    2. By making them external insights, the sales person has the ability to build the customer’s knowledge, perhaps shift or expand their thinking.
    3. It forces focus on the customer, teaching them, leading them, and defers the instinct to pitch. As a result it can force much deeper discovery conversations.

    The only thing that pisses me off about this is that I didn’t think of it 😉

  4. Ajay Bharadwaj says:

    I have used not as a sales tactic but just as a habit (not just for sales prospects but also other professional contacts.). Here are a few observations
    – it is very effective in building rapport and trust as long as the material being shared is of value.
    – if only thing one sends (as a follow-up to a initial prospecting/discovery meeting) is such send these links and not product/service information, it is sometimes seen as product/service not being relevant (or buying time if action items were agreed).

    finally, it comes naturally to me because I read a lot and would typically have some thing in my pocket account which I can share. are there any tools you would recommend for people who don’t read as much?

    btw, I love the term “next practices” and will use it (with your permission).

    • Hank Barnes says:

      No copyright on next practices (at this time) 😉 I might suggest that you allude to the connection to your product and services, but don’t overwhelm with infomration on the products.

      All hail Pocket!

  5. Loray Daws says:

    My view is that salespeople do not do their homework prior to customer contact – this alone makes for a difficult intro situation and they are on the backpeddling from the start.

  6. Hank, I like this a lot and will add a few thoughts.

    * Given how rare it is for people to do good pre-sales research (try referencing something mentioned by a company’s Twitter account and people are amazed!) that raises some concerns in me about the viability of people doing good research *after* a call.

    * Ideally, you might be learning about a prospect’s industry before, after, during a conversation – you’d be genuinely interested (curious people are more fun to talk to), and you’d actually engage as a member of the prospect’s community. Like I’m commenting here and hopefully it will be one more grain of sand in someone’s thinking about my employer. (“I liked that comment someone from that company posted on Hank’s blog the other day!”)

    * Now that you’ve recommended this, Hank, we may start seeing more and more people doing it. I expect there will be a normal distribution curve with regard to quality – the vast majority of people will only be OK at it. And doing it well will be a real differentiator.

    * One approach to determining what to share may be to go beyond directly applicable content (you do X, I saw an article about X), and to find meaningful connections between X and Y – thus creating new value. I was aiming to do that, for example, earlier this week on Twitter when I read and liked your curated HBR article on the marketing power of benchmarking, but then came back and drew a connection between that and the prospect of sales-marketing alignment, saying that benchmarking may be especially powerful when it’s informed by intelligence from the field (what sales people hear people want measured) and can in turn help sales people understand where their prospects are in a maturity curve. I am excited about that, but had it on my mind because I’d just read a blog post by Randy Fritsch about making marketing content your prospects really want to read, by talking to your sales people. I deliberately sat down and thought “what’s the connection between these two things I just read?” One of the resulting thoughts was good enough I decided to share it with you – and you retweeted it! (thanks!)

    * Finally, as you said above – all hail Pocket for sure, but all the more – the Pocket text-to-speech function takes it to a whole new level, IMHO. Since using it to read articles aloud, I’ve increased the amount of content I’m able to digest – and thus share with others – by an order of magnitude.

    Ok, long comment – but an inspiring blog post! Thanks Hank!

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Great thoughts and thanks for expanding the discussion. Finding the time to think and connect –ideas and influencers– is always a good idea.

  7. Bruce Lewolt says:

    Great idea as long as you take it out of the hands of salespeople. Consider the logistics for a salesperson to send two or three items of content to a prospect over a period of time. On a daily basis, the salesperson must;
    1. Wade through prior appointments deciding who they should send content to today
    2. Decide what content will have a positive impact on each prospect as opposed to being viewed as unhelpful spam
    3. Write an introductory email explaining why the content is valuable. The days of sending a link with a simplistic note – “based on our conversation I thought you would find this interesting” – died out with flip phones.
    A better approach is to have a small group of skilled writers select and send the right content on behalf of busy salespeople. Of course, in my biased opinion, the best approach is the one we use which is to automate the process with AI. Happy to provide the AI for side by side effectiveness tests if anyone takes you up on your offer to test the approach.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Fair point about the challenges, but how will a skilled writer learn what was discussed on the call or in the meeting in order to make it relevant to the specifics of the conversation?

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