I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I am continually interviewing customers for our clients. And I always learn something constructive when I do. In a recent interview for a client who sells office furniture, I interviewed a woman who ended up buying a chair for her son, who was going to college. As she described her decision-making process, I was reminded again how buyers have complete control over the process, unlimited resources, and a massive advantage over those selling, because they know everything about what they want.
She wanted a comfortable chair for her son, within a particular price range. She wanted him to be able to sit in it, pleasantly, for long periods. She looked at other chairs on other sites, but the chairs, while stylish, just didn’t look comfortable. And our client’s site language appealed to her, classifying certain types of chairs as “task” chairs. This word really appealed to her, because she imagined her son working hard on his studies in that chair. (A mother’s desire for her college-bound son.)
This was her Mindset, which consists of the customer’s desires, concerns, and questions. And the biggest gap in marketing and selling—the problem I’ve devoted my career to solving—is the customer’s full knowledge of their Mindset, and the seller’s ignorance of it. Way too much marketing and selling, regardless of the tools or methods, is driven by guessing. Assuming. Imitating competitors. Reading reports about customer trends and profiles. All of this activity consumes the time and resources budgeted for marketing, and without a full knowledge of the customer’s Mindset, it is WASTED.
So how do you close the gap? How do you become one of those rare and successful sellers who are completely confident about how to approach their customers and what those customers need to know, in order to buy?
In the most straightforward way possible: you ask your customers!
You make an appointment for a 30-minute phone conversation. You record it (you tell them you are doing so); you ask open-ended questions; you have the conversation transcribed; you turn those conversations into reports where all the answers to each question are in their own section; and you create a separate report where you summarize your findings so you can see the big themes. And then, you put all this priceless knowledge to work and start addressing their desires, concerns, and questions in all of your marketing and selling activities. Please note that you only have to interview 5 – 7 customers of a given type to learn the truth and see the trends clearly.
That, dear friends, is the Roadmap to Revenue. (Note: All instructions for this activity are in the book—everything you need to know.) You don’t need expensive consultants to tell you what your customers are thinking. You should be totally aware of your competitors, understanding what SEO and online marketing methods/keywords are working for them, but you shouldn’t just blindly imitate what they are doing, because 1) they could be wrong, and 2) their situation is completely different than yours.
Your company is unique. Your passion, your people, your processes, your policies, and your products and services are all unique to you. Someone who buys from a competitor, who sold the exact same product as you did, would choose that competitor or you for a variety of reasons, most of which are subtle and specific.
There is only one source of absolutely bankable truth: Your customer’s Mindset. Know that, and you will make solid marketing and selling decisions. You will not be swayed by the latest Marketing Shiny Object or consultants selling the success they had with businesses other than your own. Your messages, regardless of where they appear, will appeal to customers, because they will see themselves and know that you know what they want. That’s what they’re looking for: someone who knows what they want.
Why don’t more companies interview their customers? Because they’re afraid. Afraid that their closely held perceptions and beliefs will be shattered; that they will discover that their entire marketing approach has been off-target; and that they will have to live with the embarrassment of being wrong.
Interestingly, just the opposite happens, once they are brave enough to do it. And they discover that most of what they were doing could still be useful in some way, or tweaked slightly to make it work. And the confidence and inspiration they glean from the effort makes it more than worth it. The result is relief, actually, and invigorating inspiration.
You can be as good at selling as they are at buying, but only if you start by asking them what they want. They know what they want. If you know also, everything becomes clear and successful.