Understanding your Market, Part Three

Market research for sales people

Yesterday, in part two of this three-part Post, we looked at two real-life examples of how listening to your market works.  In this concluding part we examine some practical methods for sales people.  (By sales people I also include those who run their own business because there is no better sales person than the person who runs their own enterprise!)

  1. Empty your mind of all your pre-conceived ideas as to why your customers buy your product or service.
  2. Start off by listening to the reasons why a recent customer bought from you.  Ideally in person but if not, then by telephone.  Never by email!  I’ll leave it to you to think how you might do that – easy in practice.  Comment if you want to explore this aspect.
  3. Listen to sufficient number of customers so that you feel you have a representative view.  I guess what you are looking for is the Pareto relationship – what are the 20% of reasons/motives that generate 80% of your sales.  You should be able to end up knowing what are the differences that make the difference (between you and your competitors.)
  4. Just like Guy Watson of Riverford, knowing why a customer buys MUST also include knowing what use that customer is making of your product/service.
  5. Negotiate with as many customers as possible the opportunity to stay in touch – at whatever frequency makes sense to both sides. Again, think about how you stay in touch – personal visits may be unwieldy but phone usually is acceptable.  Not via email!
  6. Once you know why people become customers then you need to know what their experience is when they are accustomed to using your product or service.  This is key!  Think what you felt like when you bought your last car.  Full of the thrill of a new experience and the anticipation of enjoying your ‘smart’ decision.  Now think how you regard your car today after the reality of the cost of ownership, a few unplanned service issues and when it now feels much more like the utility vehicle that it really is.  If the original sales person doesn’t know how you feel today then there is no way that the sales person’s next sales proposition can be modified to keep you as a client.
  7. Staying in touch allows you to anticipate future needs of your customers – the key to all business success.
  8. Understanding your customers means that you can build loyalty – and loyal customers is the key to business LoyaltyEffectRevCoverprofitability.  If at all possible get hold of a copy of Prof. Fred Reichheld’s The Loyalty Effect.
  9. Use the relationships you build with your customers to seek their ideas as to what their future needs may be, how they would like to see your products and services evolve and who, and why,  they regard as your potential competitors.
  10. Finally, as in the first point, keep an open mind and never assume.  Remember the old ditty – if you assume you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.

By Paul Handover

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