You ever heard the joke about how smoothly our businesses would operate if it weren’t for customers? Ha-ha! Of course, we all know we wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for customers. And those customers don’t stand still. Their demand for value is always increasing…more, more, more. How do we give them what they say they want?

What Do They Really Want?

The biggest challenge may be in identifying what they really want. Often times, what they say, like lower price or faster delivery, is the focus because they are just trying to meet the demands put on them by others in their organization. They seem like obvious improvements—no thinking required. But the truth is that those are never-ending demands and you can’t really win by delivering them—you only earn a short respite until the next round.

To truly identify their issues, the ones that will change the value proposition and the nature of your relationship with your customers, you need to find out what their organizational goals are. What are the goals your customers are being held accountable for? What makes or costs your customers money? If you are in chemical refining, your customers are looking for uptime. In auto repair, customers need throughput. In retail, customers must turn more inventory in the same space. If your product or service is designed to solve their problem, you will provide added value and very likely extend your relationship while increasing sales volume.

Share Your Expertise

So, don’t talk about your product, share your expertise. How would your product/service/solution improve their productivity? Simplify their process? Improve quality output? And if it won’t, then you have work to do! The day of order-taking is over. Smart companies are selling solutions, not products.

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing says, “I know this is kind of the cold hard sort of crass sounding facts, but I really do think that nobody wants or cares about what we sell. They want their problem solved, period. If we can make that connection, if we can get them to understand that we understand their problems, they’re going to listen to our solutions. The reason I say this takes a special point of view is that it requires us to fully understand our customer’s problems and in many cases, understand problems that maybe have nothing to do with the products and services that we offer.”

The Take-away

Can you name the top three problems your customers face? What is your company doing to help them solve those problems (even if they are not caused by your products)?

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