One of the key questions we ask our clients when we work with them is ‘ What business are you in?’ Most people will tell us they are the thing they sell, so for example, this week, I had ‘a financial adviser’, ‘an events planner’, ‘an accountant’, and ‘a sales trainer’.
But is that really what the customer is buying? The customer using the financial adviser may be looking for help to ensure they can retire with no money worries, or the customer using the events planner may be trying to organise a surprise 50th birthday party so will be looking for a memorable experience.
When you buy a drill, you aren’t buying it because it’s a drill, you’re getting it to make holes in order to hang up pictures or put up shelves.
At The Chameleon Guide we work hard with our clients trying to get to what it is their customers are buying off them because this will affect the marketing messages they use.
But not only is it important to understand why they are buying off you, your other challenge is to find out how your customers like to be sold to, and where they can be found for you to get them to buy your product or service.
In order to find out these things – you need to talk to your customers (see my previous blog on the importance of communicating with and keeping your existing customers).
In my quest for understanding how best to communicate with customers, I came across a book by Kristin Zhivago called ‘Roadmap to Revenue – How to sell the way your customers want to buy’.
It’s split into three parts
– Discover – Finding out about your customers
– Debate – Analysing and discussing what you’ve learned to come up with a list of priority activities that are most important to your customer
– Deploy – Work on the delivering the action plans you came up with in the Debate section
I’m going to briefly cover off the ‘Discover’ bit – the finding out about your customers.
Kristin recommends an in-depth interview process – here are the top tips summarised:
- Identify the customers you want to interview
Your top customers are a clear option, but if you can do more, so much the better. If you have multiple channels or services, try and get a good range across all the different areas.
- Email requesting the interview
The email needs to be either come from the top or be shown to be endorsed by the owner/CEO/MD i.e. this is an edict that has come from the top.
- Interview process
a. Only do phone interviews – you will get much more information from people as they aren’t being put on the spot by you facing them
b. Record the phone interviews – this allows you to concentrate on the call totally
But still take notes
c. Confidentiality – let the customer/client know it’s completely confidential. This must be followed through even after the process and someone internal thinks they know who an interview belongs to. Do not let on as to who it is.
d. CEO/Owner led calls – It’s highly recommended that the owner/CEO does the first five interviews as this will really give you a feel for how your customers/clients are feeling. You may end up wanting to do them all! After that, it’s better, if possible, to get an external agency to do the calls, but you may not have that luxury.
- Handling customer/client complaints
If the customer complains at all, do not try to tell him/her how things have improved. Acknowledge the issue and thank them for their honesty and that it’s really helpful information to know.
Do not get defensive – this will put the customer off and make them less inclined to share honest information with you.
She suggests a structure for the questions which are deliberately written in such a way as to get the best from your customer/client. These questions are far more focussed on understanding how the experience was for the customer – you will get far more valuable information this way. And they will feel much more valued rather than you asking if they’d write a testimonial. Come back to that a later stage after you’ve interviewed them if they’ve been particularly glowing – but do not ask them in the interview because you’re back to ‘what’s in it for me’ rather than what’s in it for them..
If you have any key suppliers or partners, it may be worth interviewing them as well.
The information you get from the interviews will inform all aspects of your selling, from customer service, to the website to the information you give customers etc.
The questions are very customer-centric and you may well get resistance internally, particularly from sales people who always want to ask more direct questions about getting more business or shy away from asking the hard questions. Resist them! Her structure really works. One of my clients used the technique and got some tremendous feedback from his clients, including some more business.
- What do you think of our service?
- Have you had any interaction with our staff? How was it?
- If you were John Bloggs (the CEO) tomorrow, what’s the first thing you would focus on?
- What problem(s) were you trying to solve by using our service?
- How did our service help you solve your problem?
There are a total of 12 and they are all based on open ended questions which may well result in sub questions being asked hence why the interview can take in excess of an hour to complete.
If you’d like a sample of the questions with tips and template emails to send out, let me know and I’ll email it to you (email@example.com)
Clearly, once you’ve done all the interviews, you need to do something with it!
This is the Debate phase of the book, where you analyse the information in-depth and report it back to the management team. Essentially, you will be identifying and prioritising the results in terms of what you need to focus on. This could be very broad ranging, from your website, through to how you sell and to how you manage your customer service. The book covers off how to manage this process in great depth before going on to the final phase of Deployment (actually implementing the changes). It’s rather less easy to summarise here, so I recommend the book – ‘Roadmap to Revenue – How to sell the way your customers want to buy‘ * if you are keen to follow the process through as she describes it.
What she proposes, is not a quick solution unlike Net Promoter Score. It requires a lot more effort, planning and commitment of the organisation, but is very powerful and will help you map how to match your customers’ buying process so they buy more from you. Resulting in happy customers and happy you.
For more information on how to grow your business email me – firstname.lastname@example.org
* I get no commission from book sales