Redefining CRM...With Passion

Expert Insight - Customer Advocate

Peter Weedfald's career began as a salesman pounding the pavement in New York City.

The experience engrained in him a passion for the art of selling and a bottomless reservoir of customer focus. After highly successful stints in executive sales and marketing positions with Ziff-Davis, ViewSonic, Samsung, and Circuit City, Weedfald reflects on what's wrong-and what's right-with the sales and marketing disciplines today.

1to1 Magazine: Define GE |General Displays and Technologies' customer strategy.

Weedfald: We define our customer strategy under the umbrella of CRM; not "customer relationship management," but rather "customers really matter." Each and every one of our customers is cared for under the ribs of our brand umbrella, the promise we continue to make and fulfill every day to attract, convert, and build lifetime value for our cherished customers.

1to1: What is your role in executing that strategy?

Weedfald: It's simple: I hire the talent to ensure the execution of our "CRM" strategy. I believe that if you hire "customer heroes," you can lead.... If I hire the right people, it's my job to get out of the way and let them wow our customers.

1to1: What are the largest challenges you face from a customer experience perspective?

Weedfald: As we all know, a brand is a promise. The very best brands are as durable as steel in delivering that promise. A formidable brand promise, like ours, has a multitude of customer touchpoints away from our building, away from our product boxes, and away from our customer heroes. Monitoring, managing, and controlling these customer touchpoints from a distance across time is a daily challenge. This challenge is a competitive threat or a brand-building opportunity, depending on how you manage it.

1to1: Can you recall an aha moment in which you realized the importance of customer centricity?

Weedfald: Yes, it was in high school on a weekend job when one of my customers looked deeply into my eyes and said with a broad smile, "Thank you so much." It was an unbridled thrill for me. It wasn't called "customer centricity" back then, and my service certainly was not the result of psychographics or a demographics analysis. I exceeded my customer's expectations, and in my opinion, that remains the truest definition of customer centricity today.

1to1: What was the best advice about customer relationships that you received?

Weedfald: "Do unto others as they do unto you, with a keen, cold, steel eye on the P&L, realizing and respecting that risk never sleeps."

1to1: Have any mentors helped you in the sales and marketing realm?

Weedfald: I can think of three major mentors. I was honored to report to Sam Huey, a terrific, highly intelligent, and caring docent at PC Magazine within Ziff-Davis Publishing. Howard Wood was a giant among his peers in customer centricity at Lanier Business Systems. I learned the importance of hiring and motivating people from him. And I was honored to report to Al DiGuido, who lives and breathes customer focus, while I was in several junior and senior positions within Ziff-Davis.

1to1: What was your most difficult customer-management- related assignment?

Weedfald: Having to fire an employee, one I did not hire, for failing a customer and for failing our company ethos.

1to1: What is the most important form of customer-related technology and why?

Weedfald: Silver bullets that fly at 35,000 feet delivering us to our customers' offices. Just try to compete with this customer-centric technology by using a cell phone or email. I know our competitors prefer more futuristic technology to grow their customer base. Of course, we use those same tools, but nothing compares to face-to-face customer care.

1to1: What is one of the most important things that too few people remember about customer centricity?

Weedfald: The difference between weakness and kindness. Customer centricity is all about kindness: quid pro quos and true customer care. Weakness is the dormant, mechanical flash of a TV commercial; a product-service brochure; or a sign listing product details in a retail store. Kindness is having enough retail employees to serve customers with a jaunty smile. Kindness is answering your phone with gratefulness when a customer calls.

1to1: If you were starting out your career today and wanted to reach your current position, what would you do differently?

Weedfald: Nothing. The hard knocks I experienced as a salesman on the streets of Manhattan where my days evolved around trying to get past the receptionist taught me so much about myself and showed me that I had the mettle.

4 Customer Relationship Mistakes

Throughout his career, Weedfald has witnessed competitors routinely commit four customer relationship mistakes. He says the best way to avoid them is by investing greater time, care, and scrutiny in the screening and interviewing of new hires. These four mistakes are:

1 A silent refusal to respond flexibly to each customer's individual style of business;

2 A sales team's misplaced expectations in garnering new customer business: not realizing they simply did not earn the right to ask for that business and their competition did;

3 An inability to impress customers and then deliver results that fulfill impressions and expectations through genuine collaboration and coordination between sales and marketing, and (the biggest pitfall of all)

4 A failure to listen and respond to customers with caring, relevancy, and speed.

Peter's Principles

Armed with an undying passion for customer care, Weedfald has strong feelings about areas in need for improvement within the sales and marketing discipline, including the following:

Academia: "We can get a bachelor's degree in advertising and marketing, but not in sales," he says. "Yet, selling is the most important thing we do in life. You can walk into any major North American corporation and there usually are 200 to 300 sales positions for every marketing job, yet not one college in North America offers an undergraduate degree in sales."

Sales and marketing teamwork: "When I've asked sales leaders at any level what they think about an advertising or marketing program, far too many of them say they don't know anything about advertising and marketing or they don't care," he notes. "And if you tell someone who has been in advertising or marketing their whole life to stand and deliver and close a customer within one hour, they will look at you like you're crazy. This has got to change because there is so much value in uniting these two brand- and demand-building modes that combine to serve and delight customers."

The CMO's role: "I've renamed the CMO as the 'chief metrics officer,'" says Weedfald, a former CMO. "Every month the CFO walks into the chief metric officer's office and says, 'I gave you $20 million (or $1 million, or $300,000), show me the return on that investment.' And the CMO says, 'Oh, the brand value increased by one point.' And the CFO responds, 'You're not listening; show me the sales and the increase in profitability.' Too many can't do that, and that's why the average CMO is replaced every 18 months."

online extra:

Hear what inspires and irks Peter Weedfald about sales and marketing in the podcast "Peter Weedfald's Passion for Sales and Marketing."

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