Two decades of consulting has also proved that if you don’t disrupt your value chain, someone else will! So, when I meet intelligent, engaging people who are stewards of their department, business unit, or organization, I like to find out about their end-to-end value chain. Specifically, I ask questions like:
- Help me understand your target market segment (you can’t be everything to everyone!)
- What are their fundamental needs (vs. wants), and how do you know! (the ideal answer is a hybrid of research and village knowledge, if not needs-based segmentation)
- How are those needs being met today (looking for lackluster competitive landscape or needs not being met at all)
- Who are your key partners and what are your go-to-market channels
- What key activities are elevating you above the market noise
You don’t ever want an interaction to sound like an inquisition, so my council is to always a) make it conversational, b) insert your unique perspective or value in where appropriate, and c) provoke or bring a contrarian perspective to the table. I love to push back when I hear people assert certain critical assumptions, particularly when it comes to the breadth or depth of their relationships. One of my favorites:
“We have a great relationship with our customers!”
Oh really? How do you know? When was the last time you went and visited them, had them come in for an “inner circle” gathering to discuss your roadmap or key strategies, how much of their total spend have you captured and how has the relationship trended in the past x number of years?
Bottom line – if you want to engage and influence their thinking, you’re going to have to excite or disturb them to think differently about their business. That’s how you create insane conversations! At a minimum, you’ll stand out from the crowd and the stack of business cards they were handed all day!