Think Like Your Customer

This article originally appeared in Amalgamate: A Mix of Ideas for Your Business, Summer 2016

“When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two thirds of the time thinking what they want to hear and one third thinking about what I want to say.”

– Abraham Lincoln

The hardest part of new business development is getting out of our own heads and into our customer’s, in other words, to think like your customer. I’ll blame it on budget or quota or whatever we call our goal setting exercise. We start with a number, then we try to figure out how we’re going to get there. There’s value in having a target, but once it’s tossed out onto the table, we need to move into a customer mode and translate it into the value we need to bring to them to earn our target.

That’s Step 1: Get off what’s important to you and translate it into what’s important to them.

For example, a small accounting firm wants to increase revenues by 10% this year. (the budget) Pretend it’s $150K. That goal puts us firmly in our own heads. It’s all about us. Let’s use a little trick to view that $150K number through our customer’s eyes. Ask yourself this:

“What value would I have to see in order to justify paying $150K to Greg’s accounting firm?”

For simplicity sake, I default to something I learned in my first sales job. Robert Reighter, bicycle shop owner, told me, “As long as you bring in ten times more than you take out of a company, you’ll always have a job.” Made sense to me. Stop saying “$150K” and start asking, “how do we provide $1.5MM more value to our clients this year?”

If you can find ten $150K problems or 1 big $1.5MM problem to solve for  clients, you’re one step closer to reaching your goal.

Step 2: Brainstorm the places your customer will turn to when researching the problems you solve.

  • What do they read? Think publications – websites/newspapers/magazines/trade rags etc.
  • Who influences them? Think outside influences (peers, gurus) and inside  influences (leaders, peers) as well as thought leaders in the industry.
  • Are they involved in any outside organizations? Volunteering, continuing education, social circle etc.

You’re putting yourself into their shoes. The better you are at helping them, the easier it is to hit your goals. (trite but true)

Step 3: Ask questions, make recommendations and keep in touch.

New business relies on Trust. That doesn’t come overnight. The previous statement coming from you and delivered to a current client is going to be perceived differently than having it delivered to a stranger. The first step is turning a stranger into a stranger that trusts you and your advice.

Over time.

That’s how you build trust. Communicate with integrity, demonstrate consistency, and deliver on requests, right? New business has to start somewhere, so start now by asking about the future, suggest areas where your company can help, and stay in touch.

3 simple steps, but it’s not easy.