Monday, May 21, 2012

Who are you?

Third in a series...

In 1978, The Who asked the musical question, "Who are You?" While the song and album were an exploration of conflicting progressive and punk rock attitudes, nearly 35 years later their query could be the anthem for current sales and marketing angst.

Gathering meaningful information on customers is one of the most important tasks for small businesses.  It is also one of the most difficult, and therefore, among the most neglected by small business owners. 

At its most basic level, any operating business has two target audiences:  current customers and potential customers.  Most proprietors I meet and/or work with operate under a "build it and they will come" approach of one form or another.  And for most, it works well in getting a business through its formative stages:  establishing a customer base and following, and building a revenue stream.

But to scale an enterprise takes more focus.  After all, your target market is not everyone.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Back to the Future?

Second in a series...

In our last entry,  we asked "are buyers liars?"

Buyers know what they want, and the key to more productive selling is gaining an understanding of the how, why and when of the purchase decision.

But getting that information, now there's the rub.

In some very meaningful ways, the selling today is much more difficult than in years past: while technology has made it easier to identify and communicate with prospects, it has also erected new barriers to making meaningful connections.

For example, there are fewer live gatekeepers (who has a secretary anymore?), but it is arguably harder to break through the electronic ones -- voicemail, email, online social networks.  And manipulation sure doesn't work in either case.

So, while there are new barriers to reaching customers, even when surmounted, the "trust hurdle" is much higher.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Getting past the nose

"Buyers are liars."  How many times have you heard that phrase?

It's a pretty common aphorism in certain sales-oriented industries, such as autos, real estate and home remodeling.

I've heard it thousands of times, usually following a salesperson's failed pitch.  "They said they were interested in a two-story colonial on a cul de sac, and I showed them every one of my listings, but they ended up buying a cape on Main Street from someone else.  I could have sold them that, they just lied to me. They don't even know what they want."

Does that dialogue strike a chord?  Does it seem true to you?  Do you believe that your customers really do not know what they want, or that they lie to your face?

Among professions, only politicians are trusted less than salespeople.  Why is that?  Can it really be true that in a society where the vast majority of our Gross Domestic Product is consumer-driven, that trillions of dollars are generated on deceit or cluelessness?