Why do we outnumber our customer in meetings?

We know something is wrong when we have far more people in the meeting than our customer does.

The customer has asked us to come and discuss how we can address their needs and we turn up with; product specialists, sales engineers, service delivery people and sometimes, but not always, the client executive. The required solution is clarified so we add to the team a solution architect, project manager, partner manager, commercial manager and pricing specialist. There are now more meetings occurring internally to line up all the resources than there is with the customer. In fact, it is easier to negotiate with the customer than across all the departments within our own organization. Did someone say "RACI" chart? If we ever try to work out why our bid costs are so high, we only need to look around the table at one of our internal meetings. By the way try and get a decision and we hit the "Why can't we make decisions?" problem.

The cause of this syndrome is that we are focused on the product side of the Alignment Diagram and not the customer side. Instead of having people who can talk about the customer’s outcome we have an army of people that can talk about our individual products and services. The major problem with this is that we are asking the customer to create the value of transforming our products into the customer’s solution. Or worse, the customer gives up on us and engages a system integrator to do the value creation wok. Or maybe they hear about a startup that has developed a disruptive way to directly produce the customer outcome. Before we know it we have commoditized ourselves into being just the product supplier and are now engaging with a third party and not directly with the customer.

If we ever wonder why we struggle to sell the “value” of our organization, this is the reason, we are selling products instead.