Take the hint. Next time you sit down to work out employment contracts for your staff or are intending to hire new slaves (I mean hardworking, do-anything-for-the-company employees!), you might like to consider a contract rider to the effect of spending a mandatory three days a month for one year at a customer's premises.
Now, before you start guffawing and saying that I've lost the plot in suggesting you all should be spending even more time with your monetary lifelines, consider that many of them might just appreciate it.
How did I come to that conclusion? Last week, I lobbed in on a conference for CIOs (the gods of chequebooks) run in Sydney by ARN's sister publication, CIO. One of the more interesting titbits to come out of what is largely an end-user conference was the apparent lack of knowledge shown by the attendees on just where they wanted to head their businesses.
Of course, they all wanted to be first with the latest like CRM (customer relationship management) and e-commerce to rub the bloke down the road's nose in it. But, for the life of me, I couldn't believe the number of end users that were unsure how to position their businesses to take advantage of these groundbreaking technology concepts.
Knowing I had to put a channel spin on this and not sit and shed a tear for the blighters, I wondered how the hell your average channel player could ever crack into what the pundits are calling the hottest show in town when their customers can't even sort out a business strategy.
Why claim a technology concept is huge when those at its core, the customers, can't even decide amongst themselves what it is they want it to solve? As one of the speakers, a CRM specialist from NCR, tried to explain, most departments within organisations couldn't agree on the time of day let alone the re-engineering of the way they interact with customers.
Which is why, getting back to my original suggestion, resellers and integrators should make a beeline for not just their tight pals within customer organisations but business unit managers, too.
If you hold any aspirations to sell CRM solutions (and may The Force be with you if your answer is yes!) then for god's sake take your customer service spiel literally and speak to everyone.
There is no one CRM solution to sell here and don't be afraid to chew them out if that's their intention. This CRM concept could represent the toughest test for your new services models. Convince your customers that you can interconnect their entire business network of partners and customers, send them into new, uncharted markets, and show reasonable return on investment and you'll have a customer for life.