Do You Really Understand Your Customer Base?
Whether you know it or not, you are all Sales professionals! I am always blown back by someone saying to me that “I am good at being an IT guy, but don’t ask me to sell…I’m terrible at it”. Whether you are working for the company or are the individual owning the company, the very essence of your success hinges on your ability to sell your “product” to your “customer”. To ensure ongoing success, you probably want your customer to return and make a purchase from you again. With this in mind, its also prudent to consider treating the customer just as well after the sale has been made.
For the purposes of this blog, the following terms are important to clarify:
- The Customer is the recipient of a product or service or even an idea obtained from the seller for some form of compensation.
- The Sale is the act of selling a product or a service to a customer and in return receiving some form of compensation.
- Customer service is the provision of a service to your customer before, during and after a purchase has been made.
OK…I know, common sense right? Not so much. If you consider yourself having the skill of “Selling” down pat…that’s fantastic…the cash is coming in and no doubt, would not probably be where you are today. Hold on…you may have the skill-set ready to go, but have you really considered all your customers and have taken full financial advantage as such? I urge you to take a second look and consider this question…if we say we ultimately “serve the customer”, then why is the employee treated differently to any other external customer? Please don’t misunderstand me, your employee is not handing you compensation in the form of cash after you sell him/her something, but ensures that your product is delivered to your customer in the first place and in return will receive compensation from you. At the end of the day, the employee and the manager are both customers of the other in what ought to be a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship.
No matter how we try to justify a significant difference between the two parties, they both affect (positively or negatively) the business’s top and bottom line and should be managed in similar ways. What’s more, every single building block that makes up a successful exchange with an employee, virtually makes up the same skill-set that determines the same successful exchange with a customer.
My challenge to you is to consider the traits that make you successful at selling to your external customer/s as being the traits that could or are already making you successful with your employee/s.
Let’s get started by reviewing traits that differentiate good Sales professionals from bad Sales professionals and at the same time, compare these traits with that of a good Manager/Leader.
- Honesty and being able motivate the customer through sincerity,integrity and speaking the truth ⇔ Honesty and being able motivate the employee through sincerity, integrity and speaking the truth.
- Under promises but over delivers to the customer ⇔ Under promises but over delivers by being clear with expectations and agendas with an employee.
- Genuinely caring about the needs of the customer ⇔ Genuinely caring about the needs of the employee.
- Possessing a real desire to serve the customer ⇔ Possessing a real desire to practice being a “servant leader/manager“ to the employee.
- Having the ability to establish an atmosphere of trust in all their sales relationships ensuring repeat business with thecustomer ⇔ Having the ability to establish an atmosphere of trust in all theiremployee relationships ensuring the employee continues finding his/her manager/leader approachable so they return when support is required to get the job done.
Conversely, let’s review the downside of what it means to be a bad Sales professional and bad Manager/Leader…the similarities yet again should not be a surprise.
- Believing the price is the primary reason the customer decides to buy ⇔ Believing the salary/wage is the primary reason the employee decides to work for you.
- Not asking enough questions so they can position their offering correctly to the customer ⇔ Not asking enough questions of theemployee before deciding to take certain action e.g. corrective action; coaching etc.
- Allowing ego or over confidence to get in the way of the customer and not listening enough⇔ Allowing ego or over confidence to get in the way of resolving employee challenges by not listening enough.
- Not taking the time out to think before engaging with a customer to close the sale ⇔ Not taking the time out to think before engaging with an employee to achieve the goal.
- Failing to get different perspectives before engaging with the customer ⇔ Failing to get different perspectives on the employee before making a final judgment.
- Talking too much and not allowing the customer to express thoughts/opinions ⇔ Talking too much and not allowing the employee to express thoughts/opinions.
- Making too many assumptions about the customer’s needs ⇔ Making too many assumptions about the employee’s needs, overlooking critical areas of concern.
- Making too many concessions without getting anything in return from the customer ⇔ Making too many concessions out of fear of conflict or losing the employee even though the employee gives nothing or very little productivity in return.
- Being in a constant rush and failing to pay close attention to subtle clues and underlying messages the customer is sending ⇔ Being in a constant rush and failing to pay close attention to subtle clues and underlying messages the employee is sending.
- Showing the customer a lack of confidence in the solution you want to sell ⇔ Showing the employee a lack of confidence when coaching and / or making a decision as manager/leader.
- Not using a variety of strategies and tactics to negotiate with the customer ⇔ Not using a variety of strategies and tactics to find common ground with the employee.
No matter whether we talk “customer” or “employee” or how much we want to slice and dice this equation, both bring significant returns to business if managed correctly, but also bring tremendous damage to business if managed incorrectly (see Article 1 || Article 2). Based on my own experience and observations, if you’re excelling at looking after your external customer , there is absolutely no reason why it should be any different looking after your employee. The foundational skills are the same and if managed correctly, both have the potential to bring significant returns to your business that you work so hard at day-in and day-out. The question to ask is “why do I treat the two differently if both are pretty much the same?”…I’ll leave the rest to you.
Until our next blog…may the business force be with you all!