Are you putting your customer first?

How many of you are really putting your customer first? How many of you would tell your customers during your sales call: “Dear Mr Customer, down the road there is a guy, who can sell you something better than I can. Let me walk you over and introduce you.” Let me ask you the question again, are you putting your customers first?

Most likely, leading the customer to some else is not in our rulebook. It is against what we think is normal. We have learned to act according to some mechanics, in stead of being creative and caring. Nevertheless, generosity is in our human basic behaviour. Children share, but on the road becoming an adult, we seem to have lost it. We have been thought to live according to the mechanics of what others tell us to do or not to do. We learned to ask for guidelines and working procedures. And we feel safe in doing what we are instructed. Apparantly we even may prefer simply to follow the ‘Do This, Do That’

How would you feel when you were told to find it out yourself and follow your own judgement? What if instead of being told and trained to do something according to a certain scheme, someone would just tell you JUST GO for it. See your customers and your prospects, be sincerely interested. What could happen? And how would you feel?

Some weeks ago I met a purchase manager. We talked about modern procurement and sales. What was interesting was, that he mentioned sales calls being rather boring, as most of the calls were conducted in a mechanical structure. The salespersons followed a certain similar roadmap, asking similar shallow questions, resulting in comparable quotations.
I always find it amazing to hear from buyers that different salespersons, from different companies are able to produce comparable quotations. Have you asked yourself why companies do spend lots of money trying to stand out, spend huge budgets on promotion and branding, trying to be different and recognisable?
And when it comes down to the essential part of the doing business, they are comparable?

Why are we doing things similar? Is it because we are preferring to play it safe? Is that why we follow  the so-called guidelines to success, like everybody else. Follow the same route, asking the same questions during our sales conversations. Are we acting like cattle in a herd?

Have you ever thought about asking your customer questions about what really matters to him? Have you ever tried not to ask your customer questions about what is required, how he prefers it, but questions starting with why?

What if good selling is no longer a matter of persuasion, but good selling would be about understanding the customer? And you would be focussed on finding out what drives the customer? And creating a deep understanding of the customers issues and needs in stead of just replying to the customer’s wants. Understanding what really matters to the customer and even understanding what really matters to the customers of your customer?
Of course there is a possibility you would learn some customers do not fit. You may even learn that these customers are better off seeing someone else.

It is like getting involved in a relationship  When you are really interested in a certain person, you want to spend the rest of your life together. Would you than follow a standardised, trained set of guidelines resulting in a comparison of possible partners?

And if you now think about starting a relationship with someone you would call customer? How do you see such a relationship? Is it profound, are you showing an in-depth interest? And are you able to make that perfectly clear?
And if so, would a purchase manager being able to compare you or your quotation with others? Or would he recognise you as being different, not fitting in the pre-described structure, but being sincere and really caring?

Imagine you are a metal stockist, a distributor of steel and metal products. When you are trading steel or aluminium strips, plates or profiles you may think you are helping your customers by supplying them with steel or aluminium strips, plates or profiles. If required you cut, drill, grind or add other mechanical treatments. As customers are asking for those things, you may even think that is what customers require.
However once you understand what your customer really need, you may start supplying him with good advices to improve the products he produces, you may help him with their logistics to increase his flexibility in answering to his customer's requirements. You may help him reducing his costs. You may share and deliver knowledge by organizing workshops, so he becomes better in serving his customers. You may develop specific information systems to reduce his administrative complexity.
All kind of things which shows you are really interested and you really show attention and affection. Those things make it perfectly clear that you really care about your customer. Of course you also supply him with steel or aluminium strips, plates or profiles. Customers are used to that, so they expect to see those items on your invoice.

Now, let me rephrase the question: Should you tell your customer he might be better of going to someone else?  And would you even introduce him? Would you care that much about helping your customer to find the best answer to his needs?
Would you…. really?

Then your customer knows you're putting him first. Then, most likely for the first time ever, your customer would be able to tell you and everybody else interested, what he really would miss, when you are not there any more.

Klaas Meekma



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