A common sentiment from client attendees after participating in a customer advisory board meeting for the first time is surprise—surprise at how refreshing it was to hear directly from their vendor partners and share in an in-person conversation with peers. We live in a transformative time where texts and emails replace conversations, and often the only face-to-face meetings occur when clients are being sold to or they are working with their vendor to fix an escalated issue. A return to the basics of sitting down, facing one another and having an engaging dialogue provides an impetus for candid, strategic thinking, and creates delight in the new ideas that emerge.
As a sponsor of a client advisory board, vendors often share in this surprise. Approaching a board meeting as a listener rather than a seller can be uncomfortable for those who are accustomed to wearing their sales hats in client conversations. Yet, by taking the time to listen, vendors benefit from hearing their customers’ perspectives—often identifying issues they may not have known existed, or articulating benefits they weren’t appropriately highlighting. Vendors are often surprised at the clarity of the input from clients, and pleased to gain constructive and actionable advice they did not expect.
When considering executive engagement programs, do not underestimate the power of listening to your customers at an in-person meeting. The benefits of interactions such as these should not be so surprising after all.