Who knew that a U.S. household of four people opens the refrigerator about 15 to 20 times a day? That’s according to LG research. People also spend 10.4 hours a year just staring into an open refrigerator. That might be useless information for you. It’s not if you are a refrigerator manufacturer and want to develop products that best suit your customers’ needs. These interesting statistics made me think about what information sales professionals should know about their customers.
How do they buy and why did they buy from you?
You should have learned why your customer selected you when you earned their business. It’s not too late to ask that question if you didn’t learn why you got the business.
Next learn how your customers buy. Buyers who select only on price will be the most vulnerable business for you. Customers often are not thinking about the total cost of ownership when they pick the lowest price. You now have an opportunity to show them why your products, even if they are the lowest price, are actually a better choice for them because of the total cost of ownership. You might even have an opportunity to raise your prices at the next bid cycle.
Even more important is their purchasing reason if it wasn’t based on price. The reasons they give you are now your obligations to deliver. They may have valued your quick response time, your technical expertise or something else you presented. You now have to deliver or risk losing the business because you didn’t meet your customer’s expectations.
What are their personal objectives?
I once worked with an engineer who very quickly told me his career plans. He was going to work at his present employer for 3 years, make a move up and on to the next employer 3 years after that. He mapped out his career. Not all employees are going to have such specific plans. He did leave the company in 3 years.
I knew that my job was to help him look good at his present company knowing that he was planning to leave. I hoped he would remember the work I did and select me and my company again at his next employer.
Whether your customer is planning on sticking around or leaving, your work should still include making your customer look good. You are vulnerable when your contact leaves and a new replacement arrives. The new person might want to replace you. You get to keep your business when your contacts leave when you have proof of performance of your work. This happened to me and I was able to present my results to my new contact.
What changes are there at the company? Will they impact you?
Certainly ask about changes at your customer’s company. Some customers might forget to tell you what’s going on at their company. Any changes in their business might impact your sales and your ability to meet your sales quota.
How are they using your products?
You might not think to consider how a customer is using an industrial product. You should ask questions and even watch how they use your products. Sometimes customers are not applying your products correctly. You might see evidence of this even if you’ve given them specific instructions.
You should learn more about your customers no matter what you’re selling. The more you know about them, the better able you will be to sell to more customers just like them. You might even surprise them with how much you do know about them.