Custom over customer

A friend of mine is trying to establish herself in a big company.  She has a lot of experience and a desire to share and apply what she has learned.  At a recent meeting, she found the courage to approach BIG MANAGER. She brought up some interesting points to BIG MANAGER and BIG MANAGER suggested she “train” the other people in her region to do what she does.  She was thrilled.  She scheduled the requisite 1 hour Webex session.   She started building her deck according to a previously used (and widely accepted) template.  She called people she knew and set them up to “plant” appropriate questions to keep the presentation moving.  Her one hour presentation on “How to ….” was set to go.   She had done everything right to demonstrate her worth to BIG COMPANY. 

When I suggested she might want to ditch the deck and have a conversation about what the team was doing now, how customers were reacting, what they had learned during their most recent sales campaigns, what they were most surprised by, and what themes were coming up so that she could understand more deeply what kind of help her team would most benefit from, she said “I only have an hour and they want to record this for BIG MANAGER, so I really need to make sure he knows what I am talking about.” 

In this case, her customers should have been her team of fellow sales reps, but instead, it was BIG MANAGER.  According to custom, her presentation is exactly what the company expects from her (and she will more than likely receive accolades for her hard work).  But, will she walk away with any real insight from her true customers, her fellow team of sales reps?  Will she learn anything from them that will drive new understanding, new ideas, new ways to approach a sale?  Will she allow her customers to have the opportunity to explore their insights with her?  Will she be able to create something new from that insight, or will she simply repeat what has been done in the past?

Today’s companies are often tied to “proven” methods that are situated comfortably inside the company’s workflow.  Training is delivered this way.  Market research is delivered that way.  Templates help make sure companies are consistent and employees know what to expect.  They are efficient and cost-effective.  A templated approach works for the company so therefore, it must also work for the company’s customers.  But does it?

Are your customs driving your market research and product development or are your customers?