By Larry Myler.
To be clear, Manuel Fragoso is not a true Serial Entrepreneur. More accurately, he should be classified as a Simultaneous Entrepreneur. Rather than starting and managing one business after another, he is currently operating twelve businesses at once. Eleven of the twelve are B2B companies employing a total of more than 3,000 people. Certainly, this entrepreneur has learned how to win and keep B2B customers.
While some of Fragoso’s guiding principles are intuitive, a couple of them may surprise you. How many of the following are fundamental to your business(es)?
1. All customers are created equal. This concept runs counter to most business owners and, especially, sales people. The more common assumption is that customers who spend more money are simply more important. Not so for Fragoso, who instills in his workforce the mandate to treat every customer, no matter how big or small, with the same respect, consideration, time and effort. According to Fragoso, “When you look at it from the viewpoint of even the ‘smallest’ customers, they deserve to be treated with equality. You and I would want that if we were in their place.”
2. The customer experience must be surprising. Wonderful things happen when customers get more out of business relationships than they expect. They come back for more. They tell friends, neighbors and co-workers. Sometimes they even go online and tell the world. A surprisingly good customer experience should be the goal of every company. It is your ultimate offering—no matter what product or service you sell. The customer experience might be the only differentiating factor in a commoditized market. “All of my companies are in extremely competitive industries,” explains Fragoso. “When we win, our ‘secret weapon’ always seems to be the overall experience we offer customers.”
3. Operate with absolute honesty and transparency. “We have lost a number of deals by being completely open with prospects and customers,” laments Fragoso. “Fortunately, we have made even more money off of that policy than we have lost.” Enough said.
4. Don’t just listen to customers; do something about what you hear. A customer of one of Fragoso’s companies, GS Trackme, tells a relevant story. Jon Rueckert, Assistant Public Works Director for the City of North Salt Lake, is responsible for tracking the routes and performance of the city’s fleet of snowplow trucks. Shortly after installing the GS Trackme system, Rueckert let Fragoso’s team know about some new features he needed them to add to their software. “I was shocked,” remembers Rueckert. “Three weeks after requesting the new features, they updated the system and I could use the added functionality.” For Fragoso, three weeks was about 20 days too long, but for the customer it was fast enough to create a long-term relationship.
5. Help B2B customers serve their own customers better. Most buying decisions made by companies are geared toward improving their own sales and service capabilities. When asked why this is important to the strategies of each of his companies, Fragoso responded, “Long ago I realized that if I could help my customers sell more to their customers, I would be moving to the same side of the table as my customers. We would become a team trying to accomplish the same goal.”
There are probably more factors that have led to the success of this Simultaneous Entrepreneur, but this list of five could be a good starting point for anyone hoping to attract and retain more B2B customers.
The big question is: When will Manuel Fragoso start company number thirteen?
By Larry Myler
Larry Myler: CEO By Monday, Inc., adjunct professor in the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU, author of Indispensable By Monday.