Is Your Customer Buying What You Are Selling?


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Sales professionals get paid and measured on the products and services they sell. But is that what your customers are buying?

Within our companies, everything we focus on is our products. Do they have the features and functions needed, how do they compare to competition, how are they positioned in the markets, how should they be priced. Product managers, marketing,sales, everyone talks about our products. Ultimately, we hope to get purchase orders and we ship our products.

But are our customers really buying our products? Just because that’s what we happen to ship, is that really what our customers are buying?

There’s the very old story, “A customer doesn’t want to buy a drill, what they want to buy is a certain type of hole in their wall–the drill is just one of the methods that create holes in walls.” Simple concept, but if we manufacture drills, we forget to talk about the holes they create, but focus on the drills—variable speed, reversible, cool blue color, light weight, and so forth. The customer is just thinking, “how do I put a hole in the wall.”

Today we wrap a lot of fancy words around this concept, we call it the customer buying experience. I think it’s a critical concept. I think it’s a much richer way of thinking about hole’s in the wall.

The customer buying experience starts with what the customer wants to achieve, but it becomes much richer than just the end goal–the hole in the wall. The customer buying experience looks at the whole (meaning complete as opposed to hole–sorry, couldn’t resist) process the customer has to go through to get fulfill their goal.

If we are going to be successful in maximizing our sales and share of our products, we can’t focus on our products, but on the whole customer buying experience–designing and “pricing” that experience to be superior to all alternatives the customer might consider.

For example, if I want to purchase a hole in the wall, I might consider a number of alternatives. I could call “Joe.” He’s our local handyman, has done a lot of work for us, and I know that he has devices that creates holes in walls. But then, Joe is sometimes hard to reach, he’s busy, sometimes he takes mornings off to go surfing, generally, he doesn’t like being bothered to create just one hole in my wall. If I persist, Joe will respond, with a proposal to create a high quality hole in the specified location on a certain date, for a certain price. The date may be far past when I really want it, the price may be a little high, but I know Joe will do a good job and he always cleans up.

I could go to Home Depot or Lowes’s. They have a variety of devices that create holes in the wall. But I have to go fight all the Saturday morning crowds, stare at some tools locked behind a cage, eventually get someone to help me–but they may not know a lot about devices that create holes in walls, eventually buy a drill (Makita Blue, Rykobi Red/Yellow–decisions, decisions.) I could make a choice, stand in a long line, pay for the drill, get half way home and realize I needed drill bits… know the rest of the story. Ace Hardware is just around the corner, but they have a limited number of devices that make holes in walls.

Or I could decide to watch the football game–and defer making a hole in the wall. But then there’s that nagging voice in the back of my head–actually behind my head—it’s Kookie, she’s impatiently giving me an instant performance review.

If all you make is drills, and all you worry about is drills, then you are probably missing a whole lot of what I’m going through–and I’m the buyer. If you start thinking about what I go through and design an experience that makes the process of creating a hole in a wall very easier than any other alternative, and you somehow have a mechanism of letting me know about this–maybe a marketing program, maybe a sales person–you probably would get me and a lot of others like me to buy drills.

I’ve gone through a trivialized example of what’s alternatively called the buying experience or buying journey–but it’s important.

This weekend, pick up a copy of the best book on customer buying experience ever written, Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs And Ham. At the beginning of the book, Sam is typical of too many product managers, marketing people, and sales people. He’s focused on pushing his product, “Try my green eggs and ham.” After trying hard and having no success, he realizes he needs to focus on the customer buying experience. “Try them in a boat, try them on a train, try them on a plane, you’ll find you like green eggs and ham.”

We know the end of the story, Sam makes the sale and creates a happy customer!

Make sure you are selling what your customers are buying. If you sell what they are buying, you’ll ship a lot of your product.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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