Last week, I discussed why customer site visits are important, now you can learn about how to prepare.
How to Prepare
Research the Attendees
Before you plan your trip, it is important to understand what is going on with the customer. This research can start with a simple check-in on LinkedIn, to see if there have been any personnel changes since you were last there. You also want to check in with your internal team, such as the Project Manager, the Account Manager and Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) who know about the account. If the customer is happy – the meeting will be about opportunities.
Consider the Obstacles
If the customer is unhappy or concerned, get ready for the meeting to be about complaints. If you identify potential issues and can remove them before the meeting, you will create an instant win, and save time and headaches for everyone.
If there are deeper issues that cannot be resolved before-hand, stay calm, listen well and acknowledge the problem. Even if you cannot solve the issue on the spot, they will at least come away from the meeting sensing that you are a vendor that has heard them and cares about their success.
If a customer does not want to have a meeting, it is a red flag. Maybe the relationship is struggling, or they could be evaluating a competitor. Never ignore someone who does not want a visit. Instead, give them more attention so that you and your team can get to the bottom of the issue.
Plan Desirable Outcomes
Know in advance what opportunities you could promote to this customer including:
- Software upgrades
Recall that the customer will see the visit as an opportunity to address their issues and concerns, where you will see it as a sales opportunity.
Who Should Attend
It is a best practice to have 2-3 people from the organization travel to the customer site. This includes an Account Manager or a Project Manager who oversees the relationship and a Business Analyst who understands the unique needs of the account. In rare cases for high value customers, an Executive Team member can attend the meetings at the beginning or the end. Our companies typically send Executives to 1-2 meetings/year and they fly in and out on the same day.
It is important that all team members going to the customer site to have an empathetic and understanding tone. It is frustrating that users do not typically read release notes or watch demonstration videos. However, a radical acceptance of this reality can lead to better relationships in the long term. Understand without judgement that users often learn the software second-hand from someone who may have learned it 7 years previously themselves. After all the first step needed to improve the situation is to have a clear understanding of the current state.
The meeting lasts for 1.5 days and has three parts:
- Executive Meeting with key people in the customer’s executive team. If a member of your executive team is joining the meeting, this is a great opportunity for them to connect with the customer.
- Day to day users and the Account Manager where they can get to know the users and identify easy wins.
- Wrap-up meeting to discuss conclusions and action items.
Typically, the team gets in the night before, has a client dinner, then meets all day the next day. They then fly out the next afternoon.
Executive Meeting (1-1.5 Hours)
The executive meeting helps position you as a partner with your customer. This is an opportunity for you to move up the ladder from transactional sales to a trusted consultant.
When at the meeting, the following are excellent strategic questions.
- Where is the business heading? Are their opportunities for growth that your software could help accelerate?
- Are there new lines of business you could help manage?
- Are they having infrastructure or IT issues?
- Are they entering a new geographic area – could your software help, or could you build interfaces to make the workflow smoother?
Day-to-Day User Meetings (8 Hours)
Most of the meeting is dedicated to connecting with the day-to-day users of the system. Typically, our companies go into the board room with Account Manager and Business Analyst.
They structure short 30-45-minute sessions with each type of user. For example, a group of CSRs and their manager may all go to the meeting at once, with the manager “driving”. If the Manager has difficulty using the system, that can tell you a lot about what is going on in the organization.
This is a chance for you to identify quick wins and add them to maintenance agreement. For example, perhaps users want to “right click” on a menu item to send an e-mail. That is just a few hours of development for your team, but saves the team dozens of hours of work/month.
You can also see opportunities for add-ons such as modules or recommend billable software changes for custom needs within the organization. You can also Identify training opportunities you could do remotely if needed.
Wrap-Up Meeting (1-1.5 Hours)
At the end, there is a meeting to share conclusions with the executives. This includes the Account Manager and the Senior Executive where appropriate. Here you can identify across-the-board complaints and provide feedback on the knowledge-levels of their users.
You can discuss the add-ons or additional features you identified previously which would be a value-add and point out any new features that already exist that they may want to make use of. Finally, you can identify “quick wins” you could implement and let them know you will commit to a timeline.
Whether the customer was happy or not at the beginning of the meeting, at the end they will know that you are a different kind of vendor – one that cares more about their success than anyone else.
To learn more about Site Visits, download our Complete Guide to Customer Site Visits for Software Companies.