Learn how to get your customer's voice into the room, literally and figuratively. Learn why Amazon uses an empty chair to drive better meetings. Bezos does it—you can too.
- Let's talk about customers. When you hold a sales meeting, typically most of the talk tends to be internally focused about targets and numbers. That's not customers. You could avoid this by bringing customers into your environment both metaphorically and physically. Have you ever heard about the empty chair in the room? This is the signature move of Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO. You know, even in Amazon's early days, Bezos was obsessed with the customer experience at every level of the organization, and he wanted his team to be obsessed about it as well.
So to ensure that his team focused on customers, during meetings he would leave an empty chair in the room, and that chair represented the customer. Now, this is more than just a metaphor. It highlights the importance of getting your customer's voice into the room. So how do you bring customers into your room? Well, there's the two choices. You can do it literally or you can do it figuratively. Let's talk about bringing customers in literally first. Now this doesn't mean you have to have your customers in the room when you talk pricing strategy or do (laughs) performance reviews.
That's not going to be particularly helpful. What it does mean is to bring your customers physically into your office. Show their faces around. Ask them questions in front of your group. That gives your employees a reference point for decision-making. They're creating things for real live people. Now this is particularly helpful if you work in an office that has non-customer facing staff. Showing the customer your team and showing your team the customer increases everyone's confidence and morale and increases the connection.
Now when you bring customers into your sales meeting, that goes even deeper. It provides you with the opportunity to get into the customer's world. So things you might want to ask your customers are why did they buy from you? What might cause them to look at a competitor? Or go even deeper. Have a conversation with them about their business goals. Not just their purchasing objectives, but what are they actually trying to accomplish in the scope of their business? Where do they see the industry going next year and beyond? What are some of the key challenges that they face? When you regularly bring your customers into your sales meeting, it ensures that you and your team are focused on the people who matter most.
Now if you work remotely, that's okay. We have clients that Skype their customers in at the beginning of a sales meeting. They ask the customer questions about their business and what they can do to be more valuable. It frames the entire meeting. You can also bring your customers into the room figuratively. Copy what Jeff Bezos does. Use that empty chair. It's a great reference point for considering customer impact when your team is making decisions. Ask yourself, do a checkpoint. Say, "If our best customer was in this room "right now in this chair, "what would they think of this decision? "How would this affect them?" The impact of the chair can also be brought to life with customer testimonials on your walls, with sharing customer success stories at the start of every meeting.
The point you want to make to your reps is you always want to reset them. The end game is the impact that we have on our customers.
- Understanding your role
- Setting the tone as manager
- Recruiting the right people
- Dealing with inherited bad talent
- Making sales meetings count
- Working with marketing, accounting, and product
- Communicating with senior leaders
- Dealing with failure