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Knowing Where Our Customers Live

by David Brock on July 31st, 2013

Too often, our problem as professional sales or marketing people is that we think like professional sales and marketing people.  “Duh, Dave….thanks for sharing……”

We see things from our perspectives.  We’ve got great ideas and insights, we’re anxious to demonstrate our knowledge and prowess to the customer.  We’re really enthusiastic about our products and solutions, we just know the value that customers can get from them!  We’ve got our jobs to do, things to achieve.

We see all sorts of opportunities for our customers, we want to help them achieve their goals and grow.

All this is great.  The best of it is being of service to our customers, helping them grow.  The worst….. well I won’t go there, it will get me on a tangent.

But it’s still all about us and what we are trying to do.  Even our well intended insight is about our ideas our insight.

In order to connect and engage, we have to think like the customer.  We have to be able to walk in their shoes to see things from their perspectives, to live in their worlds.

It’s a tough world!

Our customers live in a world of having too much to do, with too few resources, too little money, and no time.

It may be a world of continually shifting strategies and priorities, as they try to figure out how to grow and thrive.  Constant restructuring, new strategies and intiatives are confusing, difficult to understand, and difficult to internalize.

It may be a world where some level of stability, some calm may be a peaceful respite from constant turmoil and change is needed.

It may be a world of disappointment.  Individuals in a company striving to achieve goals, but not quite getting there.  Personal disappointment–a missed bonus, promotion, missed dinners with family or kid’s events.

It may be a world filled with politics, back biting.

It may be a world where just getting through is all people can do.  Doing something new, exciting, innovative—as fun as it is–may not be the reality.  Keep you nose to the grindstone, do your job, don’t rock the boat may be the reality.

It may be a world of great excitement and energy.  The customer has had great success–perhaps a great strategy, a new product, a vibrant market.  But the customer is so busy chasing after that success and all the work it generates they can’t focus on anything else.

It maybe a world where there are great dreams, great ideas, great aspirations, but the timing’s just not right.  They may not be ready, they may not have the resources, they may not be able to take the risk.

It may be a world of chaos and complexity, where just getting by is all that can be done.

So what’s this mean to us–sales and marketing professionals?  Do we back off?  Do we proceed?

If this is where our customers live, how do we connect and engage?

We must have empathy.  We must recognize what our customers are going through.  We must see things through their eyes, understand their emotions.

Connecting and engaging our customers is impossible without knowing where they live and having empathy.

Then something magic can happen.  Empathy and insight can drive clarity.  It can drive simplification.

Empathy and insight are the ultimate in engaging the hearts, minds, passions and energies of our customers—and our own organizations.

Do you know where your customers live?

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  1. Dave, this comment might be too afar afield – as it comes from a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis! (It also may take 4-5 minutes to read.)

    But, the evidence seems to be that professional selling hasn’t changed for a century, while who the client or customer has changed.

    With the rise of corporations, professional sales has a new challenge.

    Just exactly who are we to sell to.

    And here is the longish quote from Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow about analyzing the goals & moves of organizations or modern corporations.

    “Imagine a chess game in which the observer could see only a screen upon which moves were projected, with no information about how the pieces came to be moved.

    Initially, most observers would assume that an individual chess player was moving the pieces with reference to plans and tactics.

    But a pattern of moves can be imagined that would lead some observers, after watching several games, to consider a [different] alternative.

    The chess player might not be a single player, but rather a loose alliance of semi-independent organizations, each of which moves its pieces according to standard operating procedures.

    For example, movements of separate pieces might proceed in turn, each according to a routine, the king’s rook, bishop and their pawns all attacking the opponent according to a plan.

    It is conceivable, furthermore, that the pattern of play might suggest to an observer [yet another model]. [The chess player] is a number of distinct players, each with distinct objectives but with shared power over the pieces, and the moves [that were observed were] the result of collegial bargaining.

    For example, black’s rook might contribute to the loss of black’s knight with no comparable gain for the black team, but with the black rook becoming the principal guardian of the palace on that side of the board.”

    I have found keeping these 3 distinct views of who is the customer, when dealing with corporations, fruitful.

  2. Brian MacIver permalink

    Hi Michael,
    I cannot talk for the whole century,
    just for the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and the 10’s…..
    Selling has changed beyond recognition!

    Okay, there are still some Sales ‘Rip Van Winkles’ out there,
    [I call them Sales Zombies]
    And there are a Few who would take us back to
    a ‘Golden Age’ of Selling.

    But, Selling has progressed, and not always Buyer Led.
    We have adopted, adapted and innovated at a Sales behavioural level.

    Today, 2013 Selling is contingency based not objective based. Sales is changing from seeing it as we hoped it to be to seeing it as it is. From looking at the past, to empirical methodologies to manage outcomes in the future. From ‘pretending’ we have perfect information about Customers, Markets, and Products to the ability to sell in uncertainty.

    The very best in Selling have shown an admirable ability in turning Crisis from a threat, into Crisis as a Sales opportunity.

    I read of the death of Sales, it is possible but improbable. Who writes and talks about such things?
    Self-appointed Sales Gurus and Sales Journalists,
    who may well find that they will be redundant shortly!

    Your metaphor of the Chess game is, in my opinion, one of the most accurate for Sales [and selling].

    There is NO “right” strategy, in either Sales or Chess, it is contingent on Buyers, Markets and Competitors. I recently depicted “Very Complex selling” as a socio-gram, a model for a Big Telecom selling to Big Bank, there are over 100 Players from each side.

    There is no “best practice”, the masters of the great Sales Game recognise that they construct singularities, as unique as a scientific event or the solution to an insoluble mathematical puzzle.

    Selling is a unique, non-repeatable event. As such attempting to distil it down to a few ‘moves’ or process, or strategy just will not work.

    The great battles of history, the great Chess games and the great Sales only occur once.

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