Start With Turning on the Faucet

I have all sorts of blog ideas stuck in my head and some I’ve even put in draft form, but I just haven’t written a full one in a while. I have time blocked out every evening to write, but every evening I find something else to do and move the calendar slot to the next night. I love writing but for some reason, I am fantastic at procrastinating when it comes to writing.

I just got an email from IMPACT and it was a list of quotes to get someone past the writers block. This one in particular, got me motivated enough to writing something. “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour, Author.

Everything I write doesn’t have to be perfect, ground breaking or even interesting to everyone. I have to accept that and move on. As I write this, I realized that the same thing applies to my relationships to my partners, coworkers, friend and family. You don’t have to have a reason to talk to someone, just talk. Start by saying “Hi, how are you?” or “Hi, how was your weekend?” and the water will flow.

We get so caught up in our daily to do list that sometimes we forget to be human. I have to talk to this person about this, and that person about that. How about talking to someone just because you want to, not because you need to? Crazy concept, but when you go to someone for the heck of it and not because you need something, you might actually build a two-way relationship and get a lot more out of the conversation than you ever thought you would. Stop thinking about what you need from someone and start thinking about him or her. People aren’t action items, so make sure not to always treat them that way.

Turn the faucet on and the water will flow, relationships will build and in the end you’ll get all the water you need.

Check out the IMPACT blog here which will give you some quotes to get you writing…it worked for me.

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You gave a bad customer reference to an analyst! Are you serious?

This morning Jeremiah Owyang sent out a new “Web Strategy by Jeremiah”  newsletter. In it, he talks about his work on the upcoming Forrester Wave report. Read this part and I hope you’re as shocked as I am.

“Surprisingly, vendors don’t know their own customers that well, in more than one occasion; customers poorly rated the vendors that suggested they participate as this ideal customer reference. I also cross references with vendors to see how well they could anticipate what their customers said about them –in some cases, vendors were completely unaware of the challenges that clients were having –a very bad sign.”

I’m hoping that these companies don’t have a customer reference program. If they do, there needs to be a hard look at how their program is structured and if it’s really working. I’m sure I haven’t always given references that were 100% perfect, but I know that they were at least 90% perfect.

You absolutely have to know what your customers think of your company and product. If you don’t, you risk the chance of a reference opportunity blowing up in your face. And, if you’re giving a reference for an analyst (in my opinion one of the most critical references you can give) make sure the customer is happy, willing to be a reference and a great fit for the request.

To get a sense for how a customer feels about your company/product, try the 1-10 scale listed in my previous post. This will be a good initial measurement of their happiness.

It’s also important to do a few other things:

1 – Touch base with the sales person prior to a big reference (especially if you don’t have a great and open relationship with the customer). They’ll let you know if there were recent issues. Even if the sales person says the customer is happy…

2 – Never give a reference without first touching base with the customer. Make sure that they are happy, willing and able to give a reference. Some customers will be reluctant to tell their sales person that things aren’t great. There have been numerous situations I’ve come across in my almost 10 years of doing this where the sales person says that customer “A” is super happy with us. When I get on the phone or email the customer, they say now isn’t a good time because there area bunch of issues or they’re about to rip out our solution. You’ll also want to make sure that the customer will be able to take a call and that they won’t be on vacation or too busy.

3 – Touch base with your customer every now and then. Just because they were happy last year doesn’t mean they’ll necessary be happy this year.

4 – When speaking with a customer, ask what they feel comfortable speaking about. They might be very happy talking about VPNs but not so hot on anti-spam. In that case, although they give you a 10, you wouldn’t want to give them to an analyst who is writing an anti-spam report.

One thing that we sometimes forget is that there’s a difference between a transactional and a relational happiness level. I might be furious that my cell phone provider double charged me last month, but overall I’m really happy with them. Or, I might be happy with the way my cell phone provider dealt with a recent issue but I might hate their service. Because of this, it’s critical that you touch base with the customer prior to using them as a reference.

When giving references, especially for analysts, you can’t do too much up front work. You must know your customer. After all, isn’t that what having a customer reference or customer loyalty program is about?