Forest or the tree: Switching perspectives when dealing with the customer
Customer is a generic term with a minimal effect on sales operations. When you work at the strategic level, framing the customer as a big, monolithic phenomenon like a forest is no use. You need to narrow your scale and go with the segments that look alike or behave together, like a grove within a forest. You can only develop solutions, pricing strategies, GTM strategies, sales campaigns or buyer profiles only at the customer segment level.
When you work on closing the deals, it is time to get to the core, the customer, tree-level perspective.
This is an easy distinction to grasp at the cognitive level. But when you manage your salesforce in the field, you spend many hours tackling individual customer issues. You are likely stuck at the tree level and can not scale up to the grove level and really strategise, plan or optimise. Even worse, as a sales manager, you unintentionally make working at the micro level a habit to stay. This may result in seeking individual solutions each time, which is a dead end because solutions mainly exist at the segment level. Sales managers should be aware that they freely shift perspectives and paradigms when dealing with different compartments of day-to-day sales management.
Is there a clear, distinctive line between the segment (grove) and individual customer (tree) perspectives? Yes, there is. Sales strategy, sales planning, sales enablement, campaign design and reaching out occur at the customer segmentation level. But when you confront the customer and come face to face, it is the tree surgeon’s role to get things done, execute contextual actions and close the deal. Operating in these two perspectives requires different mental qualities and attitudes, but you must get them together for a high-performance sales culture.
You can not manage 10,000 customers individually, but you can manage 8 distinctive customer segments. You must integrate a segmentation perspective into your CRM and data array. Segmentation should live not just in your reports but also in your products, sales funnels and sales projections.
As a sales leader, keep reminding yourself: Which customer level am I working at this very moment? If you are in a sales meeting, clarify which level you will focus on. Do your thing and switch perspectives after. When you zoom in, solve the unique customer problems, then zoom out, learn your lessons, draw conclusions and optimise your sales processes at the customer segment level. These two realms are intertwined and feed each other. Whatever you do, never get stuck in just one of them or mingle them.