Here’s a concept to help your business development team. Make sure your customers think like you think they think. Put simply, know your buyer’s decision process, especially their default value orientation. The tendency is to assume your customers make decisions the same way you make decisions, that they share your same value orientation. Invest time confirming that your customers think like you think they think. Learn about their default value orientation. It will save you time in the long run.
I learned this lesson when I worked at a bicycle shop located near a hospital. The shop carried Specialized and Miyata bicycles that ranged from $300 to over $7,500 (it was the early 1990s). For the clear majority of our customers, middle-aged doctors and lawyers, the bicycles that met their needs were in the low $700 range. Better than entry level bikes, but not at the level of the expensive racing bikes. However, like moths to a flame, the doctors headed straight to the most expensive models. Their default value orientation drew them to handcrafted frames with advanced suspensions that forced the rider into hunched-over positions their paunchy bellies weren’t made for. Why pay for more than you need? I thought. Expensive bikes were made for a single season of hard-core racing and meant to be ridden by a crazy fit 20-year-old pro, not these guys. In my mind, it was the wrong solution, a waste of money.
Overhearing me talk to one of these doctors, the owner pulled me aside and said, “Greg, they’re not spending your money, they’re spending their money.” Years later, I translated that comment into this concept: make sure they think like you think they think. Know their default value position. As time has gone by, I’m convinced my bicycle store guy was right. Don’t assume you know your customer’s concept of value. Those docs were making emotional decisions. They worked 80+ hours a week and saw these racing bikes as evidence of their success. I had no right to impose my bias into their decision process, but I had every right to understand where they were coming from so I could help them make a good decision.
My clients and I expend a significant effort asking customers, prospects, and past customers what they were thinking before they started working with us. We want them to place themselves right before they chose or didn’t choose us and we want them to work backward from that point. Who else did you consider? How did you narrow your choices? Who else did you consult? How did you decide we were worth it?
This approach does a few things for us. First, it reinforces the idea that most decisions are not made logically, but are simply justified with logic. Second, it illustrates the role of emotion in decisions, especially trust. My advice for next week: no assumptions. Or as the bumper sticker on my mentor Mr. Carl’s desk said, “In God we trust, all others pay cash.”