THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS: Leading Your Organization to What Matters Most – Winning With Your Customers

By Sheryl S. Jackson

During his 30 years in the corporate world, D. Keith Pigues, dean of the North Carolina Central University School of Business and author of "Winning with Customers:  A Playbook for Business to Business" was passionate about growing business and suggests that the best way to grow your business is to make sure you help your customers grow their business.

"We get hung up in business by focusing internally and talking about how we can grow our own businesses but we forget to ask our customers what we need to do to help them grow their business," says Pigues. "To be successful, we have to make our customers the center of our business."

Making this change requires changing the conversations that businesses have with customers, recommends Pigues. "The conversations need to move away from telling customers what you have to offer and move to asking customers what they need from you in order to become more profitable," he says.  "You won’t be as successful as possible if you insist on using the same solution for all customers, especially if the solution was developed without customer input," he adds.

Pigues suggests that business leaders use the following "Winning Checkup" to see if their businesses are customer-centered :

1.     We know specifically how we help customers make money.
2.    We understand how we will help customers make their companies more profitable.
3.    We measure and track how much money over time our customers make because they do business with us.
4.    We measure and track how much more money our customers make doing business with us as compared to our competition.

"If your answer to all of these questions is yes, then you may be putting your customers at the center of your business," says Pigues.  All business leaders should be sure they can quantify their value proposition by connecting items such as supply chain, brand name, sales organization, and product line to the customers’ perceptions and financials.

He adds, "Remember that the only thing the customer values is what is important to his business and if you can become a partner with the business you’ll have a long relationship."