Know Thy Customers

Interacting with our clients is a constant education, for them and me. As you would imagine, I learn a lot about their requirements, needs, and dreams. But, that's just the beginning. What is also enlightening are the questions they ask about their market. While I answer their inquiries, the way they phrase their inquiries or the specifics of the situation sometimes getting me thinking deeper into the sales process.

This happened just last week. A client inquired about advise given him by someone with an establish and impressive track record in an industry unrelated to my client's. The principles this accomplished person spoke of were correct. They were also principles we had built into our sales process and on which I touched upon in Driving Operational Excellence back in 2010.

The problem was with the techniques, not the principles. The techniques my client had been advised to use where altogether wrong. Why? The advice didn't take into account the differences in the two respective customer bases.

The principle we all agreed on is that continuous data in any population, follows a normal or Gaussian distribution. This is factual when it comes to physical attributes like height, weight, and shoe size. It is also represents mental capability and characteristics like intelligence, innovative, and the willingness to take risks.

Gaussian Distribution

This is great information, except sometimes we need to dig deeper and understand the subset that makes up a specific customer base. It is not realistic to assume all subsets of the overall population, while forming a normal distribution will be the same. The heights of college basketball players follows a Gaussian distribution. The heights of jockeys does too. But we wouldn't expect them to be the equivalent in mean or standard deviation.

Now think of two different subsets of customers. One group (a), needs to have proof before adopting an revolutionary technology. Healthcare providers and scientists are two such groups. They can't gamble on the performance of a new device. They exist in a world that favors proof over risk.

Conversely, there are those customer subsets (b) that seek to be the earlier adopters. Being first is a status symbol and the cost of failure is less. Technology companies may fall into this group. They are far more willing to take risks and require less definitive proof.

If we were to look at both of these subset as a function of how willing they are to take a risk, we would still see a normal distribution. However, they wouldn't be the same in relation to the total population (see below).

Distribution of Two Subsets within a Population

The important points here are that principles transcend markets. They are universal. Populations and within them, subsets of populations, follow predictable patterns too.

Applying principles within a subset requires an understanding of the customers. Copying a sales process from one subset to another doesn't normally work. Developing techniques requires a knowledge of the difference between the target markets and the principles.

An effective process needs to be develop based on principles and market knowledge. Know Thy Customer is the 1st Commandment of Selling More While Spending Less™.

#CustomerExperience #CX #SalesProcess

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