Ep. 13
How to Understand Your Customer’s Customer with Cheryl McCurdy Christiansen

The Sales Conversation

Episode Overview

In this episode, Cheryl Christiansen speaks with us about the importance of understanding your customer’s customer. Cheryl started her consulting practice Data2Develop after spending several years in sales-facing leadership positions with blue-chip brands including Oracle. We are both active members of the sales enablement society, and share some perspective on the importance of really understanding your customer and their business dynamics, starting with their customers.

True Intimacy is Knowing Your Customer’s Customers’ Pain

True customer intimacy is when you know your customer’s customer’s pain. A lot of times we’ll focus on our customer, but if you start to delve into why are they in business you’ll learn more about how they are solving someone else’s problem and how they provide a solution to help them meet a need. So, you need to dig into their customer’s customers’ pains. What challenges are your customer’s customers’ facing? What does it cost them. What’s the opportunity being missed. And who else is trying to solve your customer’s customers’ problems, and how is your customer positioned in the market against their competitive sphere?

Example from the Aerospace Industry – the Miracle on the Hudson

Cheryl worked for a company called IHS, and at the time it stood for Information Handling Services and then they went public, and it became IHS Market. One of her major accounts was Honeywell which was a collection of several Honeywell accounts. Each account was focused on a specific solution that Honeywell provided. So one was auxiliary power units. They were used and bought by Boeing. So the Honeywell customer was Boeing, and they were building jets. So an auxiliary power unit (AP) is a critical piece of equipment because when the engines fail, the auxiliary power unit is what brings you in safely. For example, US Airways and the situation that led to the Miracle on the Hudson had an AP you from Honeywell. Honeywell’s customer was Boeing. And who was Boeing’s customer? Well, in this case, it was US Airways and who was their customer? Well, it was the public. And what they cared about was safe and reliable equipment. So when the airline hit a bird, and they had to make an emergency landing, they immediately turned on the auxiliary power unit, and thank goodness that worked and those people were saved as well as a very smart pilot.

Implications for Honeywell

So if you’re a sales rep for Honeywell, you have got to follow the trends. What is happening with your aerospace customer’s customers’. It was learned that Boeing was considering a joint venture with a company in France to make their own auxiliary power units. That would disrupt United Technologies and Honeywell. And if Honeywell can portray the value proposition of the safest AP, then Honeywell can take that to Boeing and hopefully be preemptive and keep the Boeing account.

Taking a Strategic Look at Your Market and Selling Strategically

Selling this way is very strategic. It requires taking a strategic look at the market including the market dynamics and the business dynamics of not just who you’re selling to, but their customer’s customers. You will come to love the industry and the players in the industry, allowing you to double down and understand the market space and being relevant to your customers in that market space. To do this, you’ve got to be curious. You will read corporate reports, so you know who your major opportunities are in your territories. If you haven’t read their annual reports, then shame on you. And as you read their annual report, and you see the different boards that they might sit on and the organizations and then you start to look at who’s who within the organization and their backgrounds you start to notice some trends, and then you start to follow the thought leaders in those industries.

Resources and Links for this Episode

  • Connect Cheryl McCurdy Christiansen on LinkedIn
  • Visit Cheryl’s Web site at com

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