A few weeks ago I took a motorcycle riding course. To start the class, the instructor wanted everyone to introduce themselves and specifically address three things:
- our expectations for the class
- any concerns we had
- our motorcycle experience, if any
These three topics allowed our instructor to tailor his lessons to our individual needs. He was able to adjust the complexity of topics to our understanding and experience.
As I was a motorcycle novice going into the class, I surely would have been left behind or at least confused had the instructor not found out our individual situations and adjusted accordingly.
Just like my instructor had his class as an audience, you too, have an audience. Your audience is all those people to whom you market your products. Your customers are the audience. In fact, anyone with whom you do business is your audience.
You’ll be able to sell to more prospects, close more deals, and make happy customers if you better understand their individual situations.
To begin, you need to understand your customer’s circumstances. You can do this via several methods:
- Do some background checking on the customer before your meeting
- Lead prospects down a self-selecting path that clearly identifies the type of customer they would be. This can be done via direct mailings, websites, or phone trees that funnel the customer to a proper classification.
- Ask the customer
- Infer expectations based on the situation, environment, or first impressions. (Be careful with this one because you could be wrong.)
Everyone comes to your business with a set of expectations. They may have heard about you from a friend or read about your service on a blog. Any way you slice it, the customer is expecting a particular outcome.
If your company can meet that expectation, you’ve got the sale. On the other hand, if you can’t meet the expectation, you’ll have some negative consequences.
There are two potential paths your customer can travel: you can meet expectations or you can’t.
If you’ve identified the customer’s expectation as one you can meet, it is your lucky day. Just do what you do best and everything should be fine. The bonus is that once you know the customer’s expectation, you can exceed the bare minimum and look like a hero (e.g. underpromise and overdeliver).
When you realize that you can’t meet your customer’s expectations, you need to reset the expectation. Clarify what exactly you can deliver and what you won’t. Ideally, you can help the customer understand that you can provide what they really need and not what they thought they needed.
However, if you realistically can’t meet the demand, you need to admit that fact so that you don’t set yourself up for failure. In this case, try to refer the customer to someone you trust that can complete the job.
Once you’ve identified the customer’s concerns, you can customize your marketing or sales message to resolve those doubts. Explain how your product removes any need for concern because of it’s features, warranty, support, guarantee, or you-name-it characteristic.
Address any concerns that you identify so they no longer act as barriers to the sale. Be aware that the customer may not tell you everything she is worried about so be prepared to resolve unspoken concerns.
What type of history does someone have with your product or even your company? Be flexible in your message when you’re selling to newbies and respect the veteran customer by skipping the basics.
If a customer had a great experience with you in the past, they may be more forgiving of mistakes this time, or they may just hold you to that higher standard. Every encounter with a customer must stand on its own merits. You can’t rely on past successes or hide behind past failures. Leverage your knowledge of a customer’s past experience to create a quality one today and for each subsequent visit.