Winning With Customers – B2B Playbook Review

by George Hollister on August 16, 2010

George Hollister, B2B Practice Leader

George Hollister

I’m reading a newly published book – “Winning with Customers – A Playbook for B2B” by Keith Pigues and Jerry Alderman.  After hearing Keith speak, I expected the book to be entertaining, challenging, and enlightening – and I haven’t been disappointed.   I’m enjoying the many insights, smartly presented, throughout the book.

Before we can understand how to win with customers, we need to first understand why we lose.   Appropriately, Chapter 2 of the book is titled “Why We Lose,” and delves into the six reasons why companies lose.   Reason #1, in my view, is the most powerful – We lose because we don’t understand the customer’s perspective.   (You’ll need to read the book for the other 5 reasons!)

The book postulates that the single greatest reason we lose is that we do not truly understand the customer’s perspective of how to grow their profits, and uses personal stories to explain that statement.  I agree, but would expand that statement to include the fact that we often don’t understand the personal “wins” of our customers’ decision makers and how to increase their personal “profits,” whatever form those take.   It takes an outward focus, rather than an inward one – it’s all about customer engagement, but from the customer’s perspective.

Published studies measure customer engagement, customer loyalty, and customer retention, and the resultant lift on your business.    Gallup studies, for example, “…reveal that customers who are fully engaged represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, and relationship growth than the average customer.”  The authors essentially turn the question on its head and ask, “What premium does a fully engaged provider bring to a customer?”

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I flipped through the book to preview what’s to come and I came across a title “Without The Customer, There Is No Team.”    While I’ve heard a lot of companies say “We don’t win unless our customers win,” or some variation on that phrase, very few times have I really felt that they meant it.

Working that closely with a customer requires sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly with each other on an ongoing basis.   Only the customer can tell you how they value the products and services you provide, how those things help them make money, and what you can do to better help them make more money in the future.

It doesn’t necessarily require more time with the customer, but a different mindset and a different set of questions to more deeply engage the customer as a member of the team.   Instead of focusing on the questions that will help improve your business, you need to focus on questions that will deepen your understanding of how you can improve your customer’s business and how you can help your buyer be a hero in his or her role.

While most companies don’t view the customer as part of the team, and it takes a cultural shift to make that happen, Keith and Jerry give some hints to help you get started:

  • Start small and grow (but don’t start too small!)
  • Start with “Friendlies”
  • The first project is incredibly important to set the organization on the right course

I’m still reading, but I’m already thinking about how I can leverage the insights in the book to help identify and increase the value that I bring to my customers.   And, how I can apply that knowledge to the lead generation process to bring more differentiated value to those companies that I’m not yet doing business with.

What value-premium are you bringing to your customers?


About the Author:

George Hollister is a B2B Practice Leader with SIGMA Marketing Group, a marketing analytics agency.  Connect with George on  or follow him on .

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