Brent’s Breakdown – Episode 1: Customer Verifiers

Note from Brent:

Since joining Ecosystems last June, I receive frequent requests to share some of the insights, tactics, strategies, and best practices accumulated across a 20-year career of research, writing, and working with commercial teams all over the world. Most importantly, those requests almost always come with a view toward Value: connecting tried and true best practices in selling to next-best opportunities in improving value management execution.

So, we decided to make a video. Well, lots of them, actually.

I’m excited to announce Ecosystems’ new video series, “Brent’s Breakdown,” taking a tactical look at value-based best practices inspired by proven world-class sales and marketing research–all wrapped up and delivered in 2-3 minute bite-sized chunks. Watch for new videos every two weeks, and enjoy value best practices in snackable, bite-sized chunks!

First up in Brent’s Breakdown:  The critical role of “customer verifiers” in building a predictable, customer-confirmed pipeline, based on actual customer actions rather than individual sales reps’ wishful thinking.


Video Transcript:

One of the single, most powerful tools that you can use in managing a pipeline or managing an individual opportunity is something called “a customer verifier.” 

What is a customer verifier? 

It is simply an indication from the customer, based on their actual behavior, that they are at a specific point in time along their purchase journey. So from that perspective, customer verifiers aren’t really about our actions as sales reps or customer success reps, but rather about the customers’ reactions. So it’s not the things that we do, but the things that they do. It’s not just about what they say, but the things that they do.

So from that perspective, a customer verifier needs to meet three specific criteria. 

  • First of all, it is in fact action-based. It should be something your customers do, not just something they say. If they say, “Let’s have a meeting” or they say, “We’re making progress,” that’s not really an indicator so much as what they are actually doing. Have they actually signed onto the stage? Have they actually attended a demonstration? Have they actually signed a–or agreed via a written email, for example, that they approve of moving to the next stage in the deliberation? So, based on action. 
  • Second is that customer verifiers are objective. So it’s not open to our interpretation, “Well it seems like they’re ready.”
  • And third, a customer verifier is binary. It’s either a “yes” or “no,” which is kind of a strong form of objective, isn’t it?

So now, the reason why this matters is we live in a world today where our actions as sales professionals are no longer nearly as predictive of customer reactions as they were in the past. Simply because buying has become incredibly variable with all the different people involved, all the different processes, all the different steps, all the different deliberations. It’s no longer necessarily the case that something that we do guarantees, or even with a high probability, leads to a specific customer outcome. 

So as we track our activities, as important as they may seem to be for determining the volume of activity in a pipeline, they aren’t necessarily determining or predictive of the health of that pipeline or the actual progress of that opportunity as it moves along that buyer journey.

Now what’s especially powerful about customer verifiers is that when you string them together in a series, something referred to often as “a sequence of events” or sometimes “a reverse timeline.”

So imagine, if you were to sit down collaboratively with your customer and say, “What are the steps that need to happen along this purchase journey or this decision-making process to ensure that you feel that you’re making progress along the way step by step by step? And you can simply ask your customer that question, “What do you think the steps are?” But you can also provide your recommendations too, “Based on working with other customers like you, we think this is the point where you want to get Procurement involved, here’s the questions you want to address with them, and you’ll know they’re on board when you demonstrate this particular action.

And when you string those customer verifiers together like that, now you have a customer-verified pipeline, where you can determine where any given deal is at any given moment. Not just based on what you believe or what the customer says, but based on what they actually do. And that is a far more robust forecast than anything you might build off of simply gut feel.

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