To succeed in business today, you must have a clear and understandable process and a clear and simple story to describe it.
When you have a clear and simple process and a clear and simple story to describe it, prospective customers understand that you are experienced, that you understand people like them, and that you know how to solve their problems. They see that you are thoughtful and systematic. They recognize that you will find appropriate solutions to their unique set of problems. They perceive added value in your approach because they have a clear understanding of how you work.
Your process story outlines the next stage of your relationship. It establishes and clarifies expectations. It’s a roadmap for the journey ahead, and thus it gives customers comfort and reassurance. They know where they are and where they are headed. They know they are in the hands of an experienced and confident guide.
In a service business.
If you are primarily in a service business, the process you describe will be the steps you follow when you work with customers like those with whom you are speaking. Each step in your process, which represents a significant meeting or customer event, should have its own distinctive name. The process as a whole should be simple and easy to follow.
In a products business.
If your business is primarily selling products, it is even more imperative that you have a process and that you describe it in a clear and simple story. As the seller of products, you face a serious risk of becoming a commodity. A commodity is a product that is generic and is bought and sold strictly on price, like a bushel of wheat or a gallon of gasoline. Without a simple and understandable customer-service process, you will be perceived as a commodity and thus you face serious pricing pressure as the only means to differentiate your products from others like them.
How, you may ask, can the seller of products talk about a process? The simplest way is to identify the steps you use to determine which products are appropriate for particular customers, and then add to that the steps you use to deliver your products to your customers and ensure that they are satisfied. If you have a successful business that sells products, you are probably already doing those things. What you must now do is identify the steps you use and describe the entire sequence in the form of a clear and simple story. Just as sellers of services, each step of your process should have its own unique name and the process as a whole should be simple and easy to understand.
Telling your process story.
In telling your process story, as you name and describe each step, you should describe what happens in that step and what its purposes are. Your description should allow prospective customers to visualize that step as it will happen, thus making each step real and relevant to their experience. If important actions take place before or after any of the meetings, or if customers will have assignments to complete to get ready for any of the steps, you should describe those activities as part of your story.
I have learned that as you describe your process to prospective customers, it is important that you point out how your process will answer their specific problems and concerns. Even the world's most brilliant process is useless if it doesn't fix the problems at hand. As you tell your process story, it must be clear where in the process you will address their worries. It is also helpful to mention there are many other worries you have not yet discussed that will be solved in the course of following your process.
It has been my experience that describing your unique and thoughtful process in a narrative fashion will do more to enhance the value of your products or services than just about anything you can do. Having a clearly defined methodology for solving your customer's problems gives you and them confidence that working together will be mutually beneficial.
One of the reasons this is true is because, as you describe your unique process, you are able to elaborate on the specifics of how you solve your customers’ problems, and you get to point out how the way you address their problems is different from your competition’s approach.
Closing the circle.
In a sense, the story of your process closes the circle on the claims you made earlier in the sales meeting. Before, you said, in essence, “You're here because you have problems. I understand those problems. I even recognize dangers you may not be aware of. Both of us recognize that serious consequences will occur if your problems are not properly addressed. Both of us recognize that there are incredible benefits to be enjoyed if your problems can be resolved. In the past I have helped other people similar to you solve problems similar to yours. Now, here's how we do it; here's how together we will solve your problems.” Now the circle is complete.
What it says about you: experienced.
A clear and powerful process story speaks volumes about you and your company. It says you have been down this road many times before — so many times, in fact, you have created your own map for how to traverse this territory. You know all the twists and turns in the road, and you also know where the potholes are and how to avoid them.
Thoughtful and empathetic.
A clear and powerful process story says you have thought deeply about the kind of customer experience you want to create for them. You have put yourself in their shoes, and you understand what will be most helpful to them in addressing and solving their problems. You have seen the journey through their eyes.
A clear and powerful process story says you are systematic and orderly. Because of your method, none of the pieces will fall through the cracks. Every piece will be handled smartly and expeditiously.
A clear and powerful process story says you don't shoot from the hip, but you work carefully through a problem to find the best solutions. It says you don't glibly hand out quick answers, but you have an organized way to find the right answers. Today’s astute consumers understand that because the world is changing so rapidly, today’s clever answers will be wrong tomorrow. Instead of clever answers, you offer your customers a caring relationship and a thoughtful process for finding the right answers regardless of changes in the environment.
A clear and powerful process story says it will be easy for you to create a customized solution for these prospective customers. Because much of the process is already thought through and laid out in advance, you will have plenty of time and attention to focus on the uniqueness of their situation.
A clear and powerful process story says you will involve them in the process of finding the right answers for their problems. It says you believe in collaboration and teamwork. It says you believe their thinking is as vital to the process as your thinking. It says you value them, and the role they will play in solving their problems with you.
In today’s competitive business environment, there is nothing more essential to your success than having a clear and simple customer process and a clear and simple story of your process. It turns prospects into customers, and customers into happy, satisfied customers who tell others what a great job your company did for them. What could be more valuable?