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BY BOB LONDON
WWW.CHIEFLISTENINGOFFICERS.COM
Basedon
In-depth
Conversations
with1,200+B2B
Decision-Makers
Before you
dive in…
About this e-Book
Customer Elevator Rants are the
authentic problems, priorities and
perceptions decision-makers talk
about—to themselves or each
other—when vendors aren’t around
(on the proverbial or literal elevator).
Rants are real-world problems,
priorities and perceptions, expressed
in buyers’ authentic language—not
corporate-speak.
To uncover the rants and insights
you’re about to read, I’ve conducted
“Agenda-Less Listening”
conversations with over 1,200 B2B
decision-makers. ”Agenda-Less
Listening” involves asking disruptive,
thought-provoking, open-ended
questions and listening between the
lines to uncover the “why” behind
buyers’ comments.
In this e-book, I’ve abstracted and
paraphrased the most common—and
useful—“rants,” and provided insights
to help you take action. The quotes
do not reflect any one industry or
type of decision-maker, so think of
this as a starting point on your
journey to better understanding the
world from your target audience’s
perspective.
Why Do Buyers Open Up?
First, because the “Agenda-Less
Listening” technique is authentic—
the questions and tone demonstrate
that you really want to know what
the world looks like from the buyer’s
perspective and aren’t trying to elicit
certain answers or sell them
something.
Second, the questions are thought-
provoking, not clichés, so the
decision-maker tends to give more
thoughtful answers.
Third, it is in the buyer’s interest to
make the vendor relationships as
productive as possible; they
recognize that being candid is a great
way to achieve that goal.
Methodology
• 1,200+ in-depth, one-on-one
conversations with B2B decision-
makers
• Conducted between 2016 and
2018
• Used open-ended questions,
including:
o What do you need to get
better at this year?
o What’s something vendors do
that annoy you?
o What do you think of our
industry?
o If you had a free hour with an
expert in this space, what
would you ask?
o What would make you a
customer for life?
AT-A-GLANCE:
8 CUSTOMER
RANTS EVERY
B2B COMPANY
NEEDS TO HEAR
RIGHT NOW
1. “Understand my
goals, Or at least ask
me about them.”
2. “Don’t say, ‘This
isn’t a pitch,” then
launch into a 30
slide deck.”
3. “Stop with the
laundry list of
features and
capabilities. Just tell
me what you do
best.”
4. “I’d rather meet
with an SME than a
sales person.”
5. “Stop trying to
upsell us before
you’ve even solved
one problem really
well.”
6. “How do I know
we’re doing this the
best way today—
and next year?
7. “Stop saying
you’re my ‘partner,’
and find tangible
ways to align with
my interests.”
8. “Be in touch
when you don’t
need anything.”
RANT #1:
“Understand
my goals—or at
least ask me
about them.”
THE RANT: “The more you know about my objectives and priorities,
the better you can help me think through how to address them. But
if you don’t know what’s on my mind—why I’m doing what I’m
doing—your aperture will always be too small. And you’ll lose
opportunities to build a trusted relationship. So just ask me. I’ll open
the kimono as much as I can.”
WHAT IT MEANS: How can you walk in the customer’s shoes or
appreciate their perspective if you don’t even know what their goals
are? Stop staring at your customer’s fingertip and see where they’re
pointing. You should be familiar with their company or division
mission and know what’s on their white board. Learn what they’re
compensated on and how their team’s responsibilities and priorities
relate to their company’s objectives?
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• What are your company’s top 2 business objectives?
• If I asked someone on your team, “What mission are you working
towards?” what would you want them to answer?
• What’s on your whiteboard?
RANT #2:
“Don’t say,
‘This isn’t a
pitch,’ then
launch into a
30 slide deck.”
THE RANT: “Did you actually think I agreed to meet with you because
I was craving 20, 30 or even 50 slides full of YOUR COMPANY’s
background and worldview? Stop using PowerPoint as a crutch. You
want to ask questions—go for it! You’d like to give an overview of
what your product can do or the specifications and use cases? Great!
But I have no burning need to know how many office locations you
have (and by the way, stop saying ‘New York,’ when it’s really ‘Jersey
City’).”
WHAT IT MEANS: Don’t assume that just because you’re in sales,
every meeting is a sales call and you have to do a dog and pony show.
Ask yourself what the prospect or customer wants to get out of the
meeting. If you don’t know the answer, double-check with them!
Always be in their service…remember, helping is the new selling. And
don’t worry, if they ask, you can always send them a list of your office
locations afterwards.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• What’s something vendors tend to do that you find annoying?
• What were your thoughts immediately after the last pitch you
received?
RANT 3:
“Stop with the
laundry list of
features and
capabilities. Just
tell me what you
do best.”
THE RANT: “Let’s say a PR firm’s web site or collateral says they have
eight capabilities…media relations, social media, content marketing,
influencer marketing, etc. I just tune out. Here’s what I need to
know: ‘What are you best at? What are you better at than anyone
else?’ and “How do you know this is your sweet spot?’ If their
answers align with my biggest challenge, then we can talk some
more.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Most buyers are happy to elaborate on their
priorities and pain points. But their candor and patience can be
short-lived if you go into an “all things to all people” description of
your capabilities. Be straightforward about what you do best—and
what’s outside your sweet spot. In the short term, you might lose a
few deals, but the ones you win will be more successful and
satisfying for both parties.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• Is there one thing you think we’re exceptional at?
• What do we do better than anyone else?
• What would be the impact to you if we went out of business?
RANT #4:
“I’d rather
meet with an
SME than a
sales person.”
THE RANT: “Don’t misunderstand me. I have great respect for sales
professionals. They have a tough job! BUT, my time is incredibly precious,
so I need access to folks who have the knowledge to answer my questions
AND give me some insights and context that I didn’t have before.”
WHAT IT MEANS: If your sales team isn’t ready to meet with customers or
prospects, don’t let them. They must be knowledgeable enough to answer
the vast majority of questions a customer might ask. Remember, you can
only measure sales training effectiveness by the knowledge and comfort of
the trainee, not by the number of training hours completed.
Second, just assume most customer or prospect interactions MIGHT
require a subject matter expert (SME), then arrange for one to be “on call”
to answer questions via phone or video conference.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• On a scale from 1 – 10, how helpful would you say our sales people are?
• How many calls does it take to get the information you’ve requested?
• What were your thoughts immediately after the last pitch you received?
RANT #5:
“Stop trying to
upsell us
before you’ve
even solved
one problem
really well.”
THE RANT: “What’s annoying is when we sign a contract with a
vendor, and within a couple weeks—before they’ve really
accomplished anything to speak of—they’re already prowling the
halls for new contacts. Or asking me about other problems we
have. The worst are the ones who schmooze my boss. You only
have one job: Solve the problem we hired you to solve. Then we
can talk more.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Here’s how to think about this from a customer’s
point of view: Let’s say you sign a contract for a kitchen renovation.
The first thing the contractor does is plant a huge sign in your yard:
“Another Fantastic Project by (Name of Contractor).”
Remember, don’t ever over-leverage your brand new—and
fragile!—client relationships. They take notice—and they don’t like
it one bit. Instead, don’t be stingy about spending extra time with
your contacts—especially during onboarding and training when
miscommunications occur most.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• What do you want to see more of—and less of—during the first
100 days?
• What’s something vendors tend to do that you find annoying?
Rant #6:
“How do I
know we’re
doing this the
best way
today—and
next year?”
THE RANT: “I’m a business person, not an expert in (technology,
accounting, HR, etc.). So I’m kind of flying blind because all we have to
go on is how we do things today and what you tell us. This makes me
feel uncertainty and anxiety. What I really need are context and
perspective. ‘What are industry best practices? Are we doing this in
the most efficient—and cost-effective—way? And most of all, how do
I avoid getting blindsided by an upcoming development or trend?”
WHAT IT MEANS: Even when you deliver service as promised,
customers can get anxious because they have no idea (a) what they’re
doing in relation to industry best practices; and (b) what they should
be thinking about next. You can add tremendous value by bringing
them unbiased insights on what’s happening in your industry. Sure,
you’re publishing content in your e-newsletter and on Twitter, but
don’t assume your customers (and prospects) read or understand it. A
one-hour call or visit twice a year may be all it takes to boost their
knowledge—and confidence.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• If you had a free hour with a recognized industry expert, what’s the
first thing you’d want to know?
RANT #7:
“Stop saying
you’re my
‘partner,’ and
find tangible
ways to align
with my
interests.”
THE RANT “Saying you’re my ‘partner’ has become a cliché to the
point where it’s a turn-off. A true partner has skin in the game. Is that
what you’re telling me? That you’re willing to share in my company’s
success or failure in some tangible way? So instead of wasting your
breath on the p-word, please tell me what you are going to do
differently than your competitors to solve my problem and add value.”
WHAT IT MEANS: “Partner” is another in a long line of words and
phrases that marketers have over-used and abused (“new and
improved,” “price just reduced”) to the point where they’re
meaningless. Saying you’re the customer’s partner is a lazy, empty
thing to say when you have little else to say. It doesn’t distinguish you
or clarify your value one iota. Developing a great value proposition
and positioning means you must first learn how the customer or
prospect defines value—and added value.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• What do you wish you were getting from vendors that you aren’t
getting now?
• What would make you a customer for life?
RANT #8:
“Be in touch
when you
don’t need
anything.”
THE RANT: “I’d love to tell you what’s going on here. You just have
to ask! I’m happy to share as much as I can about our goals and my
challenges. Because I want to make this relationship as productive
as possible. That’s when I win. And that’s what makes me look
smart.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Decision-makers will reveal much more than you
think. In fact, once you get them talking, you’ll be amazed at the
insights you’ll get. But don’t expect them to pro-actively approach
you. It’s your responsibility to ask the right questions in the right
way—and in the proper context.
WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK:
• Is there anything else I didn’t ask about that I should have?
• Is there something you were hoping I’d ask?
• Is there something you were afraid I’d ask about?
FINAL
THOUGHTS
The customer “rants” in this e-book are
notable for two reasons: First, at face value,
they can help you better align with how your
customers and prospects need you to think
and act. This reduces friction throughout the
entire marketing and sales process and
positions you as an “enlightened” vendor
that takes a more human, empathetic
approach.
Second, the number and depth of these
rants (and these are just SOME of them), are
a clear signal that customers and prospects
WANT to share information with you. They’re
just waiting for you to ask the right questions
in the right context.
It’s up to you as a vendor to initiate this
openness. Start listening to your target
audience in a new way: Without an agenda,
pre-determined outcomes or bias.
Understand their big picture objectives and
challenges. Follow up by probing for insights.
Open your mind and listen between the
lines.
They’ll thank you for it. And you’ll be amazed
at the value of insights you’ll get.
You Want Customers and Prospects to Listen to You?
You Better Listen to Them First.
The Customer Re-Discovery Playbook is a complete guide to get you started with Agenda-
Less Listening. Download it absolutely free at www.customerrediscovery.com.
NEED HELP
DISCOVERING
YOUR TARGET
AUDIENCE’
RANTS?
Just use this scheduling link:
https://my.timetrade.com/book/S39C6
Schedule a Complementary
Elevator Rant Discovery Session with
Bob London of Chief Listening Officers
About Chief Listening Officers
Chief Listening Officers (CLO) is a marketing advisory firm that helps B2B technology,
tech-enabled and professional services companies grow by creating and sharpening
their positioning, brand messaging, value proposition and differentiators. We do this
by discovering their target audience’s Elevator Rant—the real priorities, problems and
perceptions that customers and prospects talk about when vendors aren’t around.
For more information, please visit www.chieflisteningofficers.com.

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"I Am Customer. Hear Me Rant." An e-book by Chief Listening Officers

  • 1. Photo by Gem & Lauris RK on Unsplash BY BOB LONDON WWW.CHIEFLISTENINGOFFICERS.COM Basedon In-depth Conversations with1,200+B2B Decision-Makers
  • 2. Before you dive in… About this e-Book Customer Elevator Rants are the authentic problems, priorities and perceptions decision-makers talk about—to themselves or each other—when vendors aren’t around (on the proverbial or literal elevator). Rants are real-world problems, priorities and perceptions, expressed in buyers’ authentic language—not corporate-speak. To uncover the rants and insights you’re about to read, I’ve conducted “Agenda-Less Listening” conversations with over 1,200 B2B decision-makers. ”Agenda-Less Listening” involves asking disruptive, thought-provoking, open-ended questions and listening between the lines to uncover the “why” behind buyers’ comments. In this e-book, I’ve abstracted and paraphrased the most common—and useful—“rants,” and provided insights to help you take action. The quotes do not reflect any one industry or type of decision-maker, so think of this as a starting point on your journey to better understanding the world from your target audience’s perspective. Why Do Buyers Open Up? First, because the “Agenda-Less Listening” technique is authentic— the questions and tone demonstrate that you really want to know what the world looks like from the buyer’s perspective and aren’t trying to elicit certain answers or sell them something. Second, the questions are thought- provoking, not clichés, so the decision-maker tends to give more thoughtful answers. Third, it is in the buyer’s interest to make the vendor relationships as productive as possible; they recognize that being candid is a great way to achieve that goal. Methodology • 1,200+ in-depth, one-on-one conversations with B2B decision- makers • Conducted between 2016 and 2018 • Used open-ended questions, including: o What do you need to get better at this year? o What’s something vendors do that annoy you? o What do you think of our industry? o If you had a free hour with an expert in this space, what would you ask? o What would make you a customer for life?
  • 3. AT-A-GLANCE: 8 CUSTOMER RANTS EVERY B2B COMPANY NEEDS TO HEAR RIGHT NOW 1. “Understand my goals, Or at least ask me about them.” 2. “Don’t say, ‘This isn’t a pitch,” then launch into a 30 slide deck.” 3. “Stop with the laundry list of features and capabilities. Just tell me what you do best.” 4. “I’d rather meet with an SME than a sales person.” 5. “Stop trying to upsell us before you’ve even solved one problem really well.” 6. “How do I know we’re doing this the best way today— and next year? 7. “Stop saying you’re my ‘partner,’ and find tangible ways to align with my interests.” 8. “Be in touch when you don’t need anything.”
  • 4. RANT #1: “Understand my goals—or at least ask me about them.” THE RANT: “The more you know about my objectives and priorities, the better you can help me think through how to address them. But if you don’t know what’s on my mind—why I’m doing what I’m doing—your aperture will always be too small. And you’ll lose opportunities to build a trusted relationship. So just ask me. I’ll open the kimono as much as I can.” WHAT IT MEANS: How can you walk in the customer’s shoes or appreciate their perspective if you don’t even know what their goals are? Stop staring at your customer’s fingertip and see where they’re pointing. You should be familiar with their company or division mission and know what’s on their white board. Learn what they’re compensated on and how their team’s responsibilities and priorities relate to their company’s objectives? WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • What are your company’s top 2 business objectives? • If I asked someone on your team, “What mission are you working towards?” what would you want them to answer? • What’s on your whiteboard?
  • 5. RANT #2: “Don’t say, ‘This isn’t a pitch,’ then launch into a 30 slide deck.” THE RANT: “Did you actually think I agreed to meet with you because I was craving 20, 30 or even 50 slides full of YOUR COMPANY’s background and worldview? Stop using PowerPoint as a crutch. You want to ask questions—go for it! You’d like to give an overview of what your product can do or the specifications and use cases? Great! But I have no burning need to know how many office locations you have (and by the way, stop saying ‘New York,’ when it’s really ‘Jersey City’).” WHAT IT MEANS: Don’t assume that just because you’re in sales, every meeting is a sales call and you have to do a dog and pony show. Ask yourself what the prospect or customer wants to get out of the meeting. If you don’t know the answer, double-check with them! Always be in their service…remember, helping is the new selling. And don’t worry, if they ask, you can always send them a list of your office locations afterwards. WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • What’s something vendors tend to do that you find annoying? • What were your thoughts immediately after the last pitch you received?
  • 6. RANT 3: “Stop with the laundry list of features and capabilities. Just tell me what you do best.” THE RANT: “Let’s say a PR firm’s web site or collateral says they have eight capabilities…media relations, social media, content marketing, influencer marketing, etc. I just tune out. Here’s what I need to know: ‘What are you best at? What are you better at than anyone else?’ and “How do you know this is your sweet spot?’ If their answers align with my biggest challenge, then we can talk some more.” WHAT IT MEANS: Most buyers are happy to elaborate on their priorities and pain points. But their candor and patience can be short-lived if you go into an “all things to all people” description of your capabilities. Be straightforward about what you do best—and what’s outside your sweet spot. In the short term, you might lose a few deals, but the ones you win will be more successful and satisfying for both parties. WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • Is there one thing you think we’re exceptional at? • What do we do better than anyone else? • What would be the impact to you if we went out of business?
  • 7. RANT #4: “I’d rather meet with an SME than a sales person.” THE RANT: “Don’t misunderstand me. I have great respect for sales professionals. They have a tough job! BUT, my time is incredibly precious, so I need access to folks who have the knowledge to answer my questions AND give me some insights and context that I didn’t have before.” WHAT IT MEANS: If your sales team isn’t ready to meet with customers or prospects, don’t let them. They must be knowledgeable enough to answer the vast majority of questions a customer might ask. Remember, you can only measure sales training effectiveness by the knowledge and comfort of the trainee, not by the number of training hours completed. Second, just assume most customer or prospect interactions MIGHT require a subject matter expert (SME), then arrange for one to be “on call” to answer questions via phone or video conference. WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • On a scale from 1 – 10, how helpful would you say our sales people are? • How many calls does it take to get the information you’ve requested? • What were your thoughts immediately after the last pitch you received?
  • 8. RANT #5: “Stop trying to upsell us before you’ve even solved one problem really well.” THE RANT: “What’s annoying is when we sign a contract with a vendor, and within a couple weeks—before they’ve really accomplished anything to speak of—they’re already prowling the halls for new contacts. Or asking me about other problems we have. The worst are the ones who schmooze my boss. You only have one job: Solve the problem we hired you to solve. Then we can talk more.” WHAT IT MEANS: Here’s how to think about this from a customer’s point of view: Let’s say you sign a contract for a kitchen renovation. The first thing the contractor does is plant a huge sign in your yard: “Another Fantastic Project by (Name of Contractor).” Remember, don’t ever over-leverage your brand new—and fragile!—client relationships. They take notice—and they don’t like it one bit. Instead, don’t be stingy about spending extra time with your contacts—especially during onboarding and training when miscommunications occur most. WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • What do you want to see more of—and less of—during the first 100 days? • What’s something vendors tend to do that you find annoying?
  • 9. Rant #6: “How do I know we’re doing this the best way today—and next year?” THE RANT: “I’m a business person, not an expert in (technology, accounting, HR, etc.). So I’m kind of flying blind because all we have to go on is how we do things today and what you tell us. This makes me feel uncertainty and anxiety. What I really need are context and perspective. ‘What are industry best practices? Are we doing this in the most efficient—and cost-effective—way? And most of all, how do I avoid getting blindsided by an upcoming development or trend?” WHAT IT MEANS: Even when you deliver service as promised, customers can get anxious because they have no idea (a) what they’re doing in relation to industry best practices; and (b) what they should be thinking about next. You can add tremendous value by bringing them unbiased insights on what’s happening in your industry. Sure, you’re publishing content in your e-newsletter and on Twitter, but don’t assume your customers (and prospects) read or understand it. A one-hour call or visit twice a year may be all it takes to boost their knowledge—and confidence. WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • If you had a free hour with a recognized industry expert, what’s the first thing you’d want to know?
  • 10. RANT #7: “Stop saying you’re my ‘partner,’ and find tangible ways to align with my interests.” THE RANT “Saying you’re my ‘partner’ has become a cliché to the point where it’s a turn-off. A true partner has skin in the game. Is that what you’re telling me? That you’re willing to share in my company’s success or failure in some tangible way? So instead of wasting your breath on the p-word, please tell me what you are going to do differently than your competitors to solve my problem and add value.” WHAT IT MEANS: “Partner” is another in a long line of words and phrases that marketers have over-used and abused (“new and improved,” “price just reduced”) to the point where they’re meaningless. Saying you’re the customer’s partner is a lazy, empty thing to say when you have little else to say. It doesn’t distinguish you or clarify your value one iota. Developing a great value proposition and positioning means you must first learn how the customer or prospect defines value—and added value. WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • What do you wish you were getting from vendors that you aren’t getting now? • What would make you a customer for life?
  • 11. RANT #8: “Be in touch when you don’t need anything.” THE RANT: “I’d love to tell you what’s going on here. You just have to ask! I’m happy to share as much as I can about our goals and my challenges. Because I want to make this relationship as productive as possible. That’s when I win. And that’s what makes me look smart.” WHAT IT MEANS: Decision-makers will reveal much more than you think. In fact, once you get them talking, you’ll be amazed at the insights you’ll get. But don’t expect them to pro-actively approach you. It’s your responsibility to ask the right questions in the right way—and in the proper context. WHAT YOU SHOULD ASK: • Is there anything else I didn’t ask about that I should have? • Is there something you were hoping I’d ask? • Is there something you were afraid I’d ask about?
  • 12. FINAL THOUGHTS The customer “rants” in this e-book are notable for two reasons: First, at face value, they can help you better align with how your customers and prospects need you to think and act. This reduces friction throughout the entire marketing and sales process and positions you as an “enlightened” vendor that takes a more human, empathetic approach. Second, the number and depth of these rants (and these are just SOME of them), are a clear signal that customers and prospects WANT to share information with you. They’re just waiting for you to ask the right questions in the right context. It’s up to you as a vendor to initiate this openness. Start listening to your target audience in a new way: Without an agenda, pre-determined outcomes or bias. Understand their big picture objectives and challenges. Follow up by probing for insights. Open your mind and listen between the lines. They’ll thank you for it. And you’ll be amazed at the value of insights you’ll get. You Want Customers and Prospects to Listen to You? You Better Listen to Them First. The Customer Re-Discovery Playbook is a complete guide to get you started with Agenda- Less Listening. Download it absolutely free at www.customerrediscovery.com.
  • 13. NEED HELP DISCOVERING YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE’ RANTS? Just use this scheduling link: https://my.timetrade.com/book/S39C6 Schedule a Complementary Elevator Rant Discovery Session with Bob London of Chief Listening Officers
  • 14. About Chief Listening Officers Chief Listening Officers (CLO) is a marketing advisory firm that helps B2B technology, tech-enabled and professional services companies grow by creating and sharpening their positioning, brand messaging, value proposition and differentiators. We do this by discovering their target audience’s Elevator Rant—the real priorities, problems and perceptions that customers and prospects talk about when vendors aren’t around. For more information, please visit www.chieflisteningofficers.com.