Getting to Know Your Customers

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Yellow Belt
It isn't necessarily the case that the best customers are those that spend most or generate most profit. But, a customer who spends a lot but always pays late may be less valuable than customers who spend little and often, paying on time and generating higher margins.

Selling your products or services is dependent on your customers wanting it or believing that they need it. And that means knowing your customers' needs.

Knowing and understanding customer needs is at the centre of every successful business, whether it sells directly to individuals or other businesses. Once you have this knowledge, you can use it to persuade potential and existing customers that buying from you is in their best interests.

What do you know about your customers?

Do you have a clear idea of who your customers are, what they buy, and why they buy it?
Do you know which individuals are responsible for the decision to buy your product or service if you are selling to other businesses?

The best way to get to know your customers is to talk to them. Ask them why they're buying or not buying, what they may want to buy in the future and what other needs they have.

The customer's current supplier

Your potential customer is likely already buying the same product - or something similar to your product or service - from someone else. Before you can sell to a potential customer, you need to know:

* who the customer's current supplier is
* if the customer is happy with their current supplier
* if buying from you would offer the customer any benefits - and, if so, what those benefits would be.

How do you find out the answers to these questions? Ask them! Generally people are very happy to offer this information, as well as an indication of whether they're happy with their present arrangements.

It's all about benefits. If you can convince them that you can offer them more benefits, you stand a better chance of being able to sell to them. Are there any benefits your business can offer that are better than those the potential customer already receives? If there are, these should form the basis of any sales approach you make.

You need to know these ten things about your customers

1. Who they are

If you sell directly to individuals, find out your customers' gender, age and occupation. If you sell to other businesses, find out what size and kind of business they are. For example, are they a small private company or a big multinational?

2. What they do

If you sell directly to individuals, it's worth knowing their occupations and interests. If you sell to other businesses, it helps to have an understanding of what their business is trying to achieve.

3. Why they buy

If you know why customers buy a product or service, it's easier to match their needs to the benefits your business can offer.

4. When they buy

If you approach a customer just at the time they want to buy, you will massively increase your chances of success.

5. How they buy

For example, some people prefer to buy from a website, while others prefer a face-to-face meeting.

6. How much money they have

You'll be more successful if you can match what you're offering to what you know your customer can afford.

7. What makes them feel good about buying

If you know what makes them tick, you can serve them in the way they prefer.

8. What they expect of you

For example, if your customers expect reliable delivery and you don't disappoint them, you stand to gain repeat business.

9 What they think about you

If your customers enjoy dealing with you, they're likely to buy more. And you can only tackle problems that customers have if you know what they are.

10. What they think about your competitors
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