Empathy – Seeing Things Through the Eyes of Your Customer

Empathy – Seeing Things Through the Eyes of Your Customer


One of the ongoing challenges we hear about is how companies don’t necessarily feel they get suitable “value” from the BRM role. Yes, they have a single point of contact, but they want value.

If BRMs have a strong work ethic, completed checklists, a good relationship with business partners, and metrics showing positive results—what are companies looking for when they seek business value?

After all, if we’ve done everything in the job description and have demonstrated “wins,” shouldn’t our business partners feel our value-add?

Herein lies the challenge: many business functions (and often BRMs themselves) define value through their own eyes—and not the eyes of their business partner.

Instead of seeing things solely through the eyes of IT, for example, business functions must put themselves in their business partner’s shoes to understand what is truly important to them.

Say you serve as a BRM in IT for the company president. You walk into a strategy meeting and list all of the great work that the IT function has accomplished—network upgrades, portfolio management, a list of completed requests, and so on. You present this to the president, ready to accept thanks for making such an impact on the company.

Let’s look at things from the president’s perspective. Currently, she’s struggling with competition that is consistently beating her to market with new products and taking away market share. She has an upcoming board meeting where she must present a new strategy to the board on how the company can engage and retain customers. On top of all that, she’s working with a new sales team that is having difficulty increasing sales as were expected.

The president is entirely focused on her business—but what she hears from you are things that are important to your business function.

In this example, IT’s accomplishments are essential. But in the eyes of the company president, they represent the basics. They are to be expected.

What your company president needs is a BRM who has the business’ interests in mind—who offers ideas, solutions, and opportunities that positively affect business strategy. That is what defines value.

Let’s rerun the scenario—but this time, think about things from the president’s perspective. In our strategy meeting, we discuss some things the competition is doing with technology to attract customers. We tell the company president about design thinking and suggest we hold a workshop to help her team learn to think and act innovatively, after which we propose an initiative that would cut selling costs through the use of new technology.

When you address the needs that impact business strategy, you define value through the eyes of your business partner—in other words, through business results.

Value is what value means to your business partner.

4 ways to increase the real and perceived value a BRM can offer:

  1. See things through the eyes of your business partner. What keeps them up at night? What are their needs, goals, opportunities? How can you help?
  2. Present to your business partners with their needs and goals at the forefront of your mind – What’s in it for them? Don’t assume the role of strategic partner—earn it. What areas of value are most important for you to highlight when it comes to impacting business strategy?
  3. Always bring new ideas, innovative thinking, and valuable solutions. As a strategic partner, your business partners look to you to move the needle on the business front. Seize the opportunity!
  4. Work on efforts related to business goals and strategy. – The basics are critical, but if you’re working on things that don’t address business goals and strategy, you’re likely wasting time and money from the perspective of your business partners.

BRMs have enormous potential to change the way businesses operate and grow. When a business partner expresses that they don’t see the value from the BRM role, consider whether the BRM team is seeing things from the perspective of their business partner—or operating in the business’s best interests, as part of a strategic leadership team. Change your focus, and you’ll see a dramatic difference in your business partners’ attitude and response.

As author and lecturer, Jeffrey Gitomer said, “Value-first is a perception. If your customer does not perceive it as value, then it’s not very valuable.”

About the author

Jeff Warren is the President and Founder of Barkley Consulting Group, a Management Consulting Firm that combines real-world experience with thought leadership to bring transformative solutions to organizations. He is a guest lecturer and speaker and works in an advisory capacity for start-ups in the technology sector. In addition to his consulting practice, Jeff also serves as the Program Director for Design Thinking at Stony Brook University.