Insights from listening to a buyer

I recently spent a week with a client and they brought in one of their customers to speak. It was fantastic. Not only were we able to explore the value relationship for that particular customer (why did they actually buy?), but we heard a number of things that apply to buyers across industries, markets, geographies, etc. And that’s the focus of this week’s blog.

1) “When can my team get t-shirts?”

This was a serious comment from the buyer. It wasn’t about getting swag. Far from it. It was about helping his team create an emotional connection to the supplier so that they had:

  • Positive regard for the brand (which led to trust/reaching out directly to the supplier for help when needed) and
  • Commitment (which led to his employees owning problems WITH the supplier and working to fix them, instead of potentially thinking “if we only had this other company to work with” and not making the effort to fix problems).

Can you say that you are working to create an emotional connection with your clients? If not, you have an easy opportunity to do so. Give your customers:

  • Awards – formally acknowledge them for excellence among their peers
  • Recognition – let them know you respect them and their achievements
  • Special access/research – provide resources and insights that few others have
  • And, yes, t-shirts and mugs – have their people silently promoting your brand while doing their work

At the end of the day, the classic maxim is true: if they don’t like you, they won’t buy from you.

2) “The decision came down to believability.”

I commented on this earlier this week (hit the follow buttons on my LinkedIn and Facebook feeds for short insights like this each work day), but the bottom line is that your most precious asset as a seller is credibility.

If you don’t invest in and aggressively protect your credibility, no one will buy from you.

How do you do this? Make sure you know how to:

  • Fulfill your promises
  • Communicate professionally
  • Manage your time
  • Make ethical decisions
  • Respect and include diversity
  • Use technology well

And if you really want to elevate your game, help your key customers grow and protect their own credibility with their peers and stakeholders internally.

3) “We keep a layer between our execs and our suppliers. We try to keep our executives out of the weeds.”

Know that selling to the C-Suite may not always be in your best interests, for a number of reasons like:

  • Unless you are critical to their overall business strategy, you aren’t a priority for their day-to-day reality. And that’s okay, as long as you help the next layer down be as successful/effective as possible.
  • The next layer down is trying to get stuff done. Having senior executives involved quite often slows everything down and gets in the way. If your goal is to deliver maximum value in the fastest way possible, respect this dynamic.
  • If you have risks and other issues “in the weeds,” you want to protect your own credibility as long as possible. Exposing the hiccups of your most recent implementation to senior executives is usually not advisable.

This blog is already long enough, but let me throw out some other random comments that were valuable (the interview was really that good).

  • “We scale rollouts depending on the features. Smaller rollouts for more complex/potentially disruptive features. Global rollouts for simpler/non-disruptive features.” (Hint: the level of disruption is the key criteria here)
  • “Our senior execs either believe us – which leads to an automatic yes – or they don’t – which leads to an automatic no.”
  • (Regarding how they support their own internal stakeholders) “We must constantly think about how we prepare for the future. If we don’t prepare, it will come fast and get us killed (from an SLA perspective).”
  • “The biggest turn-off for me as a buyer is getting oversold.”
  • “Turn off the selling button every time you come to the office. If you are going to come in, use your time to help us solve problems instead.”

And the list really does go on.

Bottom line: if you haven’t been interviewing your customers – or better yet, inviting them to address your team – you are missing out. BIG TIME.

Because you already know… while customers may not always be right, they ALWAYS MATTER.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

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