Know Your Customers Better By Asking 8 Questions

How well do you know your customers?  Chances are there is room for improvement.  Consider that any business to business sales cycle that is longer than eight weeks is likely to have multiple buyers that are involved in the decision-making process, and it is critical that your marketing and sales process account for each. Many organizations struggle with the idea of consciously aligning their execution first and foremost to the structure of their deal cycles. A failure to understand not only who is involved in a deal but also the inability to grasp what motivates each specific player places the sales team at a distinct disadvantage. The problem manifests itself in marketing funnels filled with the wrong types of people, a pipeline not filled at all, and revenue that is not nearly at the level it ought to be.

The good news is that addressing the problem should lead to an immediate increase in visits to the website, more engagement over social feeds, more in the marketing automation system, more sales qualified leads, more sales pipeline, and more closed business. The not so good news is most are unwilling to admit they need to address the problem.

So how do you determine whether or not you have a firm grasp and knowledge of the all the buyers involved in your deals? You must make it a priority for the entire organization to address the question, “What do we know about our customers and what do we know about how they buy?”

These eight questions will help you to make an honest assessment of whether or not you are considering every aspect of every buyer in your sales cycles. It will also help you quickly determine whether or not your efforts to these buyers are well defined and correctly prioritized.

Who are the direct users of our products or services?
Whatever it is you are selling, product or service, begin by asking who the people are that have their hands on the product or directly interact with the service.

Who is the direct user’s boss and what is their title?
We are talking about product and service sales cycles that are eight weeks or longer. If this is the case, it is very likely that the user has had that use imposed upon them to some degree. We have to figure out if that is the case and if it is we want to understand who in the organization is responsible for ensuring that use.

Who’s the boss’s boss?
The idea here, and we keep going until we get to CEO, is to gain a grasp of the organizational structure of our prospects company. We want to find out which functional leader has the most influence on the application of the product or service. We also want to uncover the nature of the relationships between the different functional leaders. That is how much does finance, let’s say, interact with marketing, or how much does human resources interface with operations, etc.

Are there supporting roles internal to the organization that assist our main users or their boss?
What we are trying to uncover here is whether or not there are shared services models that exist in the account. If there is then, we know that there are functional employees whose job it is to make the job of our users more comfortable. This group of people will matter in our sales cycles.

What is the technical impact of our product or service?
There are varying degrees of detail that must be considered depending upon the product or service, but the idea of the question is to gain an appreciation for how the customer handles technical decision making, data security, and how they care and feed their overall technology needs.

What are the primary business objectives that impact the customer’s strategy that reside within the functional area where our product or solution lives?
This is an exercise in identifying what our customers care about in the context of their functional area of responsibility.

What are the three to five main pressure points for our customer’s executive officer?
This step intends to give us a more strategic appreciation for how the functional area that we serve is thought of in the mind of the company’s chief executive. This knowledge will provide for us an idea of not only the industry pressures facing chief executives but how those industry pressures impact the audience we are hoping to sell to more directly. CEO cares about issue X; issue X requires functional leader Y to do Z; therefore we have to get to the heart of X and illustrate how we deliver Z for functional leader Y. Make sense?

What do the customers of our customers care about?
With this question, we are looking to understand the marketplace of our customers so that we can easily connect the value of what we are doing for our customers to the value that they are hoping to produce for their customers. It will also give us an appreciation for how our customers see their marketplace and how they see themselves in the market.

If you sincerely invest time and effort in this exercise, you will be surprised at what you thought you knew but didn’t. This newly discovered information maps out the complete landscape of your deal structure and ultimately will begin to affect every operational area of your business.

TWEET THIS: Take time for this exercise – u will be surprised to find what you DON’T know about your customers 

One caution, more often than not the temptation is going to be to convince yourself that only a portion of what you discover is relevant, and you will choose to nibble around the edges of change and be satisfied with those small efforts. Do not give in to that temptation. In fact, if the exercise doesn’t frighten you just a little bit regarding the potential scope and size of change required to better address your target customers you probably didn’t answer the questions honestly enough. Avoid that temptation; you will be glad that you did.

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