Customers Don’t Know What They Want

On Steve's Mind: a Newsletter

“It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want”
— Steve Jobs

Here are three principles l like to keep in mind when I’m selling:

  1. This customer believes he knows what he wants
  2. This customer really doesn’t know what he wants
  3. This customer will be surprised — and interested — when I help him discover what he really wants

The “Wow, I Hadn’t Thought About That” Moment

Brand HarmonyLet’s consider what happens when you (or one of your salespeople) help a customer discover what they really want.

This is the moment where the customer questions their bid process and develops preference for you.  This is the moment the customer first thinks about approaching his boss to say, “Forget the RFP, I know who I want to work with.”

Once you help a customer question their preconceived notions and develop a new perspective about “what could be,” you have elevated yourself beyond the status of ‘vendor’ and have become a partner in creating a better situation for this customer.

You have shifted the customer’s frame of reference from your products to your brains, and brains are always more differentiating than products. And… profit margins on brains are always higher than profit margins on stuff.

How to Help a Customer Discover What They Want

During a sales conversation, we certainly want to ask customers questions. But this doesn’t mean that we interview a customer, take notes, and offer a solution that fits what they have described.

Explore and Heighten is one of the most important practices in a customer conversation. To “explore” is to identify what a customer really cares about, and to “heighten” is to focus the dialogue on what you have identified.  When you do this, the customer is more likely to speak freely, and to share their thoughts, fears, needs and interests.

As you Explore and Heighten a conversation, don’t just focus on the specific things your product does, or the specific solutions your product provides. Elevate the conversation to find the higher-level business or personal reasons that matter to your customer.  Remember, your customer doesn’t just want your product or service. They want a better state for their business or for themselves. When you and the customer co-discover what this better state could be, it will be much easier for you to craft a dialogue that helps the customer see how you can help them reach that better state.

When you enter a customer conversation the customer has certain expectations about what will happen. Surprise them. Explore and Heighten in a way that sets new, higher expectations. Aim for, “Wow, I hadn’t thought about that.”

Eluding the Procurement Department

You think you despise your customer’s procurement departments. Imagine how much your customer detests it.

Procurement processes try to take the emotion and nuance out of corporate purchases and define every option in terms of row 38 on an Excel spreadsheet, i.e., who has the lowest price. They attempt to take discretion away from the people in their companies who are most affected by the purchase, substituting issues like price for more important issues of performance.

This is not only bad for you, it’s bad for your customer, who deserves to be able to base their purchase decision on the many issues other than price that matter to their goals.  In most cases, customers have options to “massage” a bid process, depending on how strict their company’s procurement procedures are. If they have formed a preference for you, this can work to your advantage.  They may be able to:

  • Give you a first look
  • Invite you to design the bid process with them
  • Give you a last look
  • Argue the case for you within their company and steer the business to you for reasons other than price.

From Preconceived Notions to Unforeseen Possibilities

Your goal is to create reasons to buy from you that transcend price and product. When you bring a customer out of the realm of their preconceived notions and into a new area of unforeseen possibilities, you have distinguished yourself, meaningfully, in the mind of this customer.

Remember, it’s not the customer’s job to know what they want. It’s your job to work with them to co-discover what they want. If you do this, they will think about you in new, different ways. They will prefer you, rely on you, and be willing to partner with you. That’s good for you, and it’s good for your customer. But it’s not so good for your competitors

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Conversation, Customer Encounters, Ditch the Pitch, Sales

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Subscribe to the Blog
Email:  

On Steve's Mind
Get Steve's newsletter featuring his ideas and practical advice delivered to your email inbox.
* = required field
Latest Tweets
Testimonials
Doug Ducey
In one morning, Steve re-energized the way we look at marketing. The only question we had at the end of the session was, ‘When can we get him back?'

Doug Ducey

CEO & Chairman, Cold Stone Creamery, Governor of Arizona
jim-winter
Steve put together a program that produced spectacular results, and the quality of our communication and customer satisfaction is vastly improved. I’ve been in business for 40 years, and Steve’s the first consultant that I’ve gotten my money’s worth from. We’re going to continue to work with Steve and the bright, energetic people that are on his team.

Jim Winter

COO, Dimension Design
Alex von Bidder
Steve Yastrow's teachings are applicable to any business that values long-standing success based on personal relationships.

Alex von Bidder

Managing Partner, The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York
jim-evans
Yastrow and Company introduced Brand Harmony and their Be the Brand concept to our team at Jenny Craig.  I believe these new ideas contributed in helping us triple the company's revenue during my years as CEO.

Jim Evans

former President and CEO, Jenny Craig
Rhoda Olsen
Steve Yastrow has clearly described the emotional reality of customer relationships and their impact on profitable business growth.

Rhoda Olsen

President, Great Clips for Hair
american-licorice-logo
We have seen huge benefits from Steve's input. Steve is unlike any other consultant I've ever worked with. He takes a genuine, deep-seated interest in our business. He is intuitive and able to identify problem issues quickly. We wouldn't be as far along in acheiving of our long-term growth strategy if we hadn't actively and aggressively pursued Steve's Brand Harmony.

Michael MacDonald

Executive VP Sales and Marketing, American Licorice Co.
Mike Depatie
Steve Yastrow is at the forefront of the next evolution in marketing. We have implemented many of his innovative ideas... and have seen very positive results.

Mike Depatie

CEO, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
Jennifer Whelan
Our work with Yastrow and Company yielded the best long-term value of any consulting engagement we’ve ever had. As we grow and expand internationally, Acuative continues to depend on the branding approach and marketing tools Steve and his team developed. Yastrow and Company genuinely partnered with us, were exceptionally responsive and remain committed to our success.

Jennifer Whelan

Vice President of Marketing, Acuative
Craig Dwight
Steve’s approach to integrating all customer contacts into a comprehensive marketing message is a must in today’s information age. We have partnered with Steve to develop our integrated and comprehensive marketing message, and as a result of his excellent work, his new book is required reading for all of our employees.

Craig Dwight

Chairman & CEO, Horizon Bancorp
David Sank
I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that is intent on enhancing their customer experience. Prior to working with Steve, we were communicating various messages to customers. Steve and his team helped us achieve a cohesive brand message that we as a company live daily. Steve is an incredible listener and learned the nuances of our business rapidly. I can’t imagine anyone Yastrow and Company couldn’t help.

David Sank

President and CEO, Calico Cottage
Kathleen Phillips
Not only is Steve's content sound, but the energy he displays in delivering it will knock your socks off.

Kathleen Phillips

Ernst & Young, Chicago, IL
roma-maxwell
I give Steve two thumbs up—five thumbs up, if I had that many!

Roma Maxwell

Roma Maxwell, Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Jennifer Whelan
“Steve’s workshops helped bring out what is best at Acuative. His insights were fresh and long-lasting—we continue to use his tools and approach years later.”

Jennifer Whelan

Vice President of Marketing, Acuative
Marc Allen
We are absolutely better off after engaging Yastrow and Company. They helped us look at our business from our clients’ perspective, resulting in a cultural shift throughout our organization. These changes have made a big impact - we’ve gained new clients and strengthened relationships with existing clients. The investment was well worth it.

Marc Allen

Vice President of Sales, AMD Industries
roma-maxwell
Rancho La Puerta has enjoyed continued success because of the work we did with Yastrow and Company. Together, we implemented business strategies that have contributed to our success. Steve and his team truly believe in our brand, and our experience with them was empowering, fun and a great learning opportunity. I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that needs help building the bottom line

Roma Maxwell

Roma Maxwell, Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Alex von Bidder
In these high pressure times of bite-size communications we all hunger to be listened to and cared for individually. Our customers know great hospitality, the kind that is not about selling but treating their needs as our highest priority. Steve Yastrow’s teachings are applicable to any business that values long-standing success based on personal relationships.

Alex von Bidder

Managing Partner, The Four Seasons Restaurant, New York
Chris Miller
I rarely book speakers more than once. But I’ve used Steve four times! Steve has our association’s interest at heart and works tirelessly to deliver customized programs. He always ranks highly with our affiliates because he is outcome-focused, fast-paced and highly engaging. Anyone looking for insight and understanding into marketing, branding and sales should book Steve!

Chris Miller

Executive Director, Professional Systems Network International
Chris Tucker
Steve is a creative and collaborative speaker who communicates his ideas clearly and concisely. He immediately understood our business needs and provided a better perspective on how our customers see us as a company. I have referred Steve to our customers in the past and I will continue to do so. He’s intuitive and has a unique way of looking at business. Steve has the experience to turn a project into something extremely valuable for any organization. I strongly recommend working with Yastrow and Company.

Chris Tucker

Director of Business Development, MBX Systems
Ward Alles
Steve Yastrow knows his stuff. That's why our management team has read all of his books. And that's why we've had him as a keynote speaker at both client and employee events. From creating brand alignment, to selling more effectively, to providing top-notch customer service, Steve offers words of wisdom based on real-life experiences. He always engages his audiences with questions, interactive exercises and great storytelling that keep you coming back for more. Read Steve's books. Then book Steve. You'll be glad you did.

Ward Alles

CEO, Core Creative
Ditch the Pitch is a great read-- interesting, fun, and easy to follow. And I’ve already seen the concepts work. Just yesterday, I called a client and had a conversation that was 95% about the client, as the book suggests. At the end of the call, he sent a new matter my way. I ditched the pitch and it resulted in new business.

Attorney

Chicago, IL
roma-maxwell
Rancho La Puerta has enjoyed continued success because of the work we did with Yastrow and Company. Together, we implemented business strategies that have contributed to our success. Steve and his team truly believe in our brand. I highly recommend Yastrow and Company to any business that needs help building the bottom line.

Roma Maxwell

Director of Sales and Marketing, Rancho La Puerta
Tom Peters
When Steve Yastrow writes, I pay close attention.

Tom Peters

Founder, Tom Peters Company