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|Learn How to Enter Your Customers Purchasing Mindset
By Harvy Simkovits, CMC Published in Boston Business Journal 2/28/03
In todays uncertain business climate, your customers might delay important business purchases. They may take more time to see how the economy is progressing before making additional financial commitments, even those that are essential to their business. So, how can you, as a small-business product or service provider, get a leg-up in this situation, generating a more immediate urge to buy from a cautious customer? You can speed up a customers buying decision by understanding their purchasing mindset.
Dealing with Contentment
A professional service provider once spoke with the president of a prospective client company who claimed that he had achieved over 20% growth in his business over the last number of years. "So what do you think you can do for me to beat those numbers?" he challenged the service provider. Without losing a beat, the other responded, "What makes you think your growth shouldnt have been over 30% in those years?" He added, "And what makes you consider that such a fine level of performance will continue in this current economic climate?" With that, the president hired the service provider to help him face the next challenges in his business.
This service provider knew that the prospect was in a "mindset of contentment" about his business, being considerably pleased (and almost arrogant) about the companys performance. The service provider then shook him up by reminding him that there were even greater achievements to reach.
Dealing with Denial
Conversely, some prospects may be in a "state of denial" about some aspect of their business, unwilling to acknowledge how they would benefit from your product or service offering. They may not recognize the severity of their situation, actually putting their business at risk.
Prospects in denial need to be made to see (as compassionately, strongly and rationally as possible) the predicament they are facing and whats at stake if they do not act expediently. With customer denial, it helps to appeal to the customers rational self-interest, hooking into something thats truly important to them.
For example, a family business owner was hesitating over the purchase of a new information system for her business. Though it was sorely needed, the president feared the large financial and personal investment required to make the new installation work. However, when the vendor effectively pointed out that the system would ensure the successful continuity of the business (at risk because of the archaic systems that were still in place), the owner realized she had no choice but to make the investment.
Dealing with Concern
Problems may also arise when prospects are in a "state of concern or confusion" about a part of their business and seeking solutions to alleviate those concerns. In this case, they are searching for the right answers to their questions, and are more willing to listen to a sales approach. However, prospects in this state usually do not know what they really need in order to address their concerns successfully.
For example, one prospect asked a vendor for a comprehensive Total Quality Management (TQM) System for their business in order to increase its operational performance. The vendor asked, "Whats happening in your business that makes you believe that a TQM System is what you really need?" After some discussion, the vendor helped the prospect to recognize that it was not TQM they needed, but a simpler Performance Management Program, and proceeded to propose work in that direction. With greater clarity now, the prospect immediately hired that vendor over several competitors who were just working to provide the prospect with a great TQM System.
In this case, the vendor got the customer to recognize the businesss true need, and then provided the most appropriate solution for that need. Also, the vendor immediately increased mutual trust and their value by digging below the surface to determine what the prospect actually needed.
Dealing with Renewal
Prospects may also find themselves is in a "state of renewal," where they have purchased and incorporated a vendors solution, and are now starting to move their attention to something else. In this case, its important to ensure a successful integration of the solution that the customer purchased into their business. Too often, customers disengage from the vendor before the solution is fully implemented within their business, and thus do not gain its full benefit.
For example, a company president hired a management consultant to facilitate a strategic planning retreat for his top management team. The retreat was a great success, with good directions and actions generated, yet within a few months, the company reverted back to many of its old ways with little to show from the planning retreat.
In this case, the vendor needs to point out what can happen if new efforts are not well supported, and demonstrate that small additional investments (like an insurance policy) can ensure a better return on the initial purchase. Fortunately, this management consultant stayed in touch with that company president, continually asking him how things were going, and eventually had the opportunity to help that president build upon the good created at the initial retreat.
In all these situations, the vendors success lay in being able to discern what kind of purchasing mindset the customer had, then looking for openings where they could make an important and valuable difference for that customer. Knowing and effectively approaching your customers mindset enables you to become a more valued and longer-term resource to their business.
Harvy Simkovits, CMC, President of Business Wisdom, works with owner managed companies to help them grow, prosper and continue on by offering innovative approaches to business development, company management, organization leadership and learning, and management education. He can be reached at 781-862-3983 or .