FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

You talkin' to me?

No matter how flat you make your pancake, it still has two sides. It’s just like when you and your customers have a different interpretation of the same thing.

It’s human nature. We believe we see everything from the customer’s point of view, but the truth is that we are nearsighted. It’s the same for buyers. We both look at the same problem and many times see it entirely differently. 

Hearing and listening are not necessarily the same. As hard as we try, we don’t connect. You get frustrated, they get frustrated. Sometimes you lose a customer.

Who are you talking to?

Connecting on the same wavelength is much more than rushing to get buyers to the cash register. There are a lot of things that are all too easy to lose sight of in business, such as, “Why are we doing this?” And just as important, “Who are we doing it for?”

As businesses grow, the power of the relationship between a company and its customers is frequently taken for granted. Complacency sets in and you begin to believe your business knows what’s best for the buyer. The market wonders if you’re listening and maybe talking to someone else.

You talkin' to me?

What is wrong with our customers? They just don’t get it. More than likely they do get it and maybe you don’t. I was guilty of this early in my career and then one day it hit me; it’s my responsibility to communicate clearly my company’s ideas and product benefits. But, that can’t be done in a vacuum. Your buyers are operating under different rules and assumptions than you. Whatever their situation is, they are living it and you aren’t. Insisting that your interpretation of their condition is always right isn’t going to cut it. Invest time with customers, asking questions and uncovering their view of their problem. Otherwise you'll be out the door quickly.

I am more than a demographic. It’s all too easy to pigeonhole your target audience into a stereotype. Defining your ideal demographic and firmographic as IT directors, 35 to 57 years old, of mid-sized manufacturing companies and using psychographics (attitudes, aspirations, values, interests) doesn’t go deep enough. The only way to avoid describing your buyers as a bland Borg-like entity is to decide you don’t understand their problem well enough to try and solve it, much less explain it. Put a face on your audience. Create a life-size, cardboard image of your ideal customer holding a sign saying, “This is who I am” listing the top five reasons they will buy from you and why. Stand it in the office to serve as a reminder about who your business exists to serve. Discover the real insight to what your current, potential, and former customers think.

Check your ego at the door. Admit you don't know everything -- about your industry, the latest trends, competitors, and your customers. Believing that your company has all the answers is the quickest path to middle-of-the-road growth, or worse. We’ve all been there. It’s great to be self-assured, but not smug. Test every assumption you have about your product and service, and your audience. Get the right help to learn and move forward with workshops, a coach, or an advisor. Don’t be afraid to bring in a facilitator to help your crew dig to find hidden treasure. Before jumping off the deep end to pursue a course of action, pause to ask yourself If it's based on an assumption or fact. Regardless of the outcome, you’ll win.

Who really cares about what you have to say and your solution?

Stay nimble and have an open mind. One assumption you can make is that something you do, the way you think needs fixing. Find out what that is. The best way to do that is to truly understand why you do what you do and who you do that for. 

Most of all, realize that there only one source of truth -- your customers. Talk with them, not at them. 

You talkin' to me?

Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.