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THINK LIKE YOUR CUSTOMER
A Winning Strategy to Maximize Sales by Understanding How and Why Your Customers Buy
By BILL STINNETT
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2005Bill Stinnett
All rights reserved.
What Customers Think About
When I was a kid, I loved to go fishing with my dad. We always had a lot of fun. The only thing that wasn't very fun about it was that he could normally catch fish all day long and I couldn't catch anything. Well, as a nine-year-old kid I could get pretty frustrated, and it usually wasn't long before I resorted to my standard incessant question, "What am I doing wrong? What am I doing wrong?" His advice was always the same. He said, "Son, if you want to catch a fish, you have to think like a fish." I remember being even more frustrated then because, "I'm not a fish!" I didn't know how to think like a fish. Besides, I reasoned, how could the way that I think influence what a fish does or doesn't do?
As I got a little older I began to understand what my dad was really trying to say to me. What he meant was I needed to learn to think about what fish think about. So, I decided to do some reading and research. I went to the library and found some books on fish. I subscribed to several fishing magazines, and I even joined the local bass fishing club and started attending the monthly meetings. I learned all kinds of things.
Did you know that a fish is a cold-blooded animal? Therefore, fish are very sensitive to water temperature, and generally speaking they would rather be in warmer water as opposed to colder water when they can. Water is usually warmer in direct sunlight than in the shade, but fish don't have any eyelids and the sun hurts their eyes. Shallow water is usually warmer than deep water, and it tends to hold a wide variety of food sources. But even if there is adequate cover (a boat dock or a thick growth of lily pads), so that they feel safe moving into the shallows, fish always position themselves so they can quickly escape to deeper water to avoid predators or threats of any kind. As I took the time to learn and understand more about all the different things that concern fish, I became much more effective at finding and catching them.
Later on, when I entered the business world, I remember hearing my first boss say, "Although we each have different titles and responsibilities here in this company, we are really all in sales. We all need to think like salespeople." I also started attending sales seminars and I read a number of books on sales. They all seemed to revolve around the thought, "Here's the way top salespeople think." I appreciate the point that my former boss and those trainers and authors were trying to make, but it didn't completely make sense. My dad never once said, "If you want to catch a fish you need to think like a fisherman." What he said was, "You need to think like a fish."
In my work as a speaker and trainer in the field of sales performance and business profitability, I teach business professionals, and especially those in sales, to quit thinking like salespeople. What we all need to do is to start thinking more like customers! Admittedly, this is not always the most natural thing to do.
As I built my own professional career, I managed to work my way into a very uncomfortable position. I had sought out opportunities to sell enterprise-wide solutions and long-term services engagements with price tags in six and seven figures in order to maximize my own income potential. But because of the cost and the scope of the things that I sold, I had no choice but to deal with business owners and senior executives. This meant I often had to engage people twice my age—some of whom made more money every month than I made in a year—and help them arrive at my conclusions.
It quickly became glaringly apparent that if I was going to be effective dealing with, for example, the chief financial officer (CFO) of a major corporation, then I was going to have to think like a CFO. And for me that was a problem. I didn't know how to think like a CFO, because I had never been one. But in time, with determination and a ton of personal effort, I did learn to think about what CFOs think about. And so can you. This book will show you how.
Your Customer's World
With the exception of those who make their living as purchasing agents or secret shoppers, most people aren't professional customers. Rather, they are professional engineers, accountants, human resource managers, customer service reps, chief executive officers (CEOs), or whatever. They spend their time thinking about the things that are most important to them and to the people they care about, are responsible for, and accountable to. They think about family issues, the weather, where to go for lunch, an upcoming sports event, or whichever global calamity dominated the morning news. While they're at work they also spend at least part of their time thinking about their jobs, their responsibilities, and their objectives, as well as the expectations and obligations placed on them by themselves and others.
While there is no way we can know everything our customers are thinking about, one thing is relatively certain: they're not spending a whole lot of time sitting around thinking about being our customer. In fact, dealing with vendors and suppliers is considered by many to be somewhat of a pain. Even those who frequently deal with outside vendors typically see it as a means to an end, and unless they work in procurement, it is just one of the many hats they wear each day.
Your customers, or those you hope soon will be, are busy. They are deluged with correspondence of every kind. They've got 150 e-mails in their inbox, eleven unplayed voice-mail messages, and a stack of papers on their desk that need to be dealt with ASAP. No wonder when we call it seems as if we are interrupting them. We are!
Imagine for a moment that you are one of the executives on your prospect list. What are some of the things that might occupy your mind? If you were in their position, would you make the time to take a phone call from a salesperson you didn't know? A general manager who attended one of our workshops recently shared his perspective with the team. He said, "Sometimes I do end up talking to salespeople on the phone ... when I'm expecting a call from someone else and I accidentally pick up the wrong line."
Our customers (or clients) really aren't that much different than we are. Wouldn't it stand to reason that if we spend most of our day thinking about how to keep our boss happy and how to take better care of our customers, our clients probably spend most of their day thinking about how to keep their boss happy and how to take better care of their customers? If we could figure out how to help them do that, and then communicate to them that we could, we might find a lot less resistance.
At some point in my career, I came to the realization that ...
For those of us in professional sales, our customers are the people outside our company who buy what we sell. But for many people in a corporate setting—whether department managers or individual contributors—their customer is their boss or some other "internal customer" who "buys" whatever they produce at a predetermined contract rate (a salary) and then uses that work product to serve and satisfy yet other internal customers within their company.
A design engineer's customer might be the manufacturing department that uses his blueprint as a guide to making a new product or component. The accounting department's customers are the various internal or external consumers of the financial data, reports, and analyses that they produce. The CEO's customers are the shareholders who "buy" a little piece of the company (i.e., shares of stock) based on the promise of favorable returns, which they hope wil
Excerpted from THINK LIKE YOUR CUSTOMER by BILL STINNETT. Copyright © 2005 by Bill Stinnett. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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