Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Know Your Customer

I have run across a number of discussion threads in LinkedIn groups that contain an underlying complaint of “why don’t they want what I provide?”
“A senior manager wants reports, not analytics” complains the statistician. “These guys don’t understand the power of information” says the data miner. “Why don’t these people understand they need to change their management style?” asks the consultant.
There are two threads to this dynamic.
First, as experts, we will see, consider, understand, and perform based on a much broader and refined set of knowledge and experiences than those outside the field will have. We cannot legitimately expect others to intuitively understand what we can provide or why it is needed.
This suggests that if we want to get others to truly value our contribution and seek further ways to incorporate it, we need to be able to be both translators and salespeople. Translators in the sense that we need to explain the depths of our field in layman’s terms so they are understood by others who may have no exposure to the field. Salespeople in that we need to convince them, compellingly, without being used-car salespeople, that there is value. Selling in our best approachable and dependable partner manner. We learned the value a long time back in our careers and assume it is a given. But others do not know nor understand, and it needs to be explained and shown.
Second, the managers of a business must maintain a balance amongst many constituencies, be it customers-shareholders-employees, or finance-marketing-operations, etc. No field wins all the time as the business needs to move forward in a balanced manner.
This suggests keeping one of the following adages in mind - “pick your battles”, “live to fight another day”, “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em”, etc.
As discussed in prior postings, the boss is our customer. It is incumbent that we understand their needs, struggles, priorities and problems. How are we best able to deliver our expertise in an amount and intensity that is just right for them? It is not about us, it is about them – how do we best serve given what we know and can do?
I would love to hear your thoughts about knowing your customer or your stories on this topic if you have them.
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    Know Your Customer

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