It seems odd to write a post for sales professionals (and unprofessionals), posing the question, “Are You Curious About Who Your Customer Is?” After all, we read endless drivel about the importance of relationships and people.
But, sadly, too many sales people don’t really care about who their customers are. Sure, they look them up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social platforms, trying to find clues about how to have that first prospecting conversation.
I get endless notes, trying to “engage me,” “I see you are in the manufacturing industry…” I’m not, though many of my clients are manufacturers. Or, “I see you went to UC Berkeley …….” Yeah, so what.
The conversations don’t get much better. Any questions about my business challenges, what we are trying to do as an organization, what we believe in, how we are trying to engage our clients, never get beyond the selective listening for an opportunity to pitch their products.
When I talk to sales people about a “deal,” I ask questions: “What do they care about and why is that important to them? What are they trying to achieve? What do they face as they do their jobs? What do they dream about? What keeps them awake at night (Yeah, people say that’s a horrible question, but there are a lot of things keeping people awake at night.)?”
Most of the time, the responses are in the context of what the sales person sells, “They want to buy……, they care about these capabilities…..”
But our customers cannot be defined in terms of our products, our features/functions/feeds/speeds. Our customers cannot be defined in terms of what they are buying. They are more than what our current purpose for speaking may be. They are more than their current problem, or even their job, or even the company they work for.
Even before the pandemic, our customers struggled. They are overwhelmed, struggling with turbulence, complexity, information overload. Often they feel disconnected and disoriented. For the past couple of years, I and others have been writing about the importance of sensemaking.
Fast forward to today, with the pandemic, economic, and social crises, the challenge has become more acute.
Everyone struggles to connect and be connected (please don’t even begin to think of this in the LinkedIn sense of connections). They feel isolated, they feel lost. If they struggled to make sense before, now they struggle even more.
If we are, truly, trying to engage our customers. If we are trying to create value with them, we have to care about them–not just for the transaction, but for who they are and what they want to be.
This doesn’t mean deep probing or engagement. This doesn’t mean you are trying to be their best friends or therapist. But what if we went one or two questions deeper? What if we listened and really paid attention? What if we simply cared?
It’s amazing what we discover when we do this. It’s amazing what we learn about how we best serve and support them.
Are you curious about who your customer is?
Afterword: If you are a sales manager/leader, please re-read this in the context of your people and team. They are, after all, your customers. Are you curious about them and who they are as human beings?