I thought about a couple of meetings during the flight – had 11+ hours, and I’d seen the films.
It is really important to know your customer’s market as well as, or better than, they do. My customers appreciate when I can speak about pricing or margins. In effect, we have less to hide from each other, and we can discuss how to make the goals happen instead of editing what we are saying to hide “important information”.
I know the majority of my competitors, where they sell, and I have a good idea of what everyone is making in the value chain. I can help my clients by explaining this competitive landscape and give them ideas on what they could do to stay at the forefront of the market. Whether they do what I suggest or not is another question, but I position myself as an “expert” in the category, and that gives them reassurance that they are dealing with a qualified supplier, and even, a partner.
I always do store checks before my meetings including the products, their pricing, and how they buy, and sell. Sometimes I get a meeting with the store manager and that adds more information, new information, that I can use during my next meeting.
Getting this information makes you more aware of your market: pricing; positioning; competition, etc. If you can rattle off 5 different competitors and their pricing, market or product maturity positioning, not only do you impress them and demonstrate that you are an “expert”, you give yourself the necessary information to understand if you’re in the right market to begin with.
There is no replacement for visiting your clients, but you should also be benchmarking for your products, channels to sale, and the competition. It’s a metro ticket, and walking 15 mins. But this time gives you the edge over the 50 other women and men waiting to speak to your customer, and take them from you. It will also give your client the reassurance that they are with someone who is serious, professional, and even, a partner. And this will get you a more loyal relationship that will weather the difficult times as well as the successful ones.