“Know your customer, know your product,
call a lot of people, ask all to buy.”
Fifteen words that are as true today as they were back in the 1940’s when he was a nationally-acclaimed sales trainer and motivational speaker.
Certainly, knowing our customers is critical to long-term sales success; it is also a never-ending process, as customer knowledge should be accumulated during each and every sales call.
At the start, we get to know our customers by building relationships. These relationships are built with individuals and organizations, and are nurtured over time by learning their respective personalities, values, communication styles, interests, concerns, understandings, misunderstandings, evaluation protocols, policies and procedures; by learning about what’s important to them.
We get to know our customers better through comprehensive and on-going need assessment; by identifying needs both recognized and unrecognized, including short-term needs, emerging needs, longer-term objectives, priorities, changes, and related needs.
Then we get to know our customers even more each time we deliver the solutions to their needs in the form of our products and services. If all goes well, this too is a never-ending process!
And we come to know our customers even more by following-up after-the-fact to ensure they are satisfied, and when we provide customer service and support.
In all of these instances the primary tools-of-the-trade are probing and listening, as we will never get to know our customers through sales presentations, advertisements, promotions or talking at them; and regardless of what type of business we’re in, knowing our customers i.e., nurturing relationships and gauging on-going needs requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Here are five proven best practices:
- Proactively work on customer relationships
- Never assume the customer knows everything necessary to make the right choices
- Develop and use a consistent method for uncovering these basic and not-so-basic needs (i.e., a need-assessment process)
- During each sales call, take an extra minute to double-check and confirm established needs, specifications and expectations. Sixty-seconds of prudence before order fulfillment can often save hours after-the-fact should there be extenuating circumstances or a misunderstanding about features, billing issues or other special requirements.
- Diligent post-sale or post-delivery follow-up