Seth Godin is a businessman who writes and I pay attention to what he says. He wrote recently about why customers buy from you in a business situation.
I thought his insights were interesting. He said that people buy for at least one of six reasons. There may be more than one of these but at least one. As I surveyed the list, I couldn’t dispute them.
I write you often about customer satisfaction. Recently, I quoted an expert who said, “If the customer can live without you, eventually the customer will.” Other times I have written about customer loyalty, stating that our goal should be to have the customer demand us as compared to preferring us.
Used appropriately, this list can help you think about strategies that build up your relationship to where you can’t be lived without and are in demand.
- Avoiding risk – This is the primary element. You don’t make your customer look bad. You don’t make your customer lose money or time. You don’t embarrass them with poor service. I have found the quickest way to lose a customer is to have a negative event and not act to fix it in a hurry. When the customer begins to worry that you might send poor quality, when the customer begins to believe you might not show up on time, when the customer begins to think your pricing won’t be competitive – the risk of doing business becomes high. So, the first challenge to working with a customer is to do no harm.
- Avoiding hassle – This is the second most important. We make it easier to do business. It is easy to order. It is easy to pay. We know our stuff so we can answer questions with one call. We get the paperwork right. The customer doesn’t have to even think after the order is made. We make it hassle free. Become a hassle, your life as a supplier is going to be shortened.
- Gaining praise – Our association with them helps advance their reputation in some way. This happens when we bail them out from a mistake that they made or we solve a problem that appeared to be unsolvable. When they get the credit for finding the solution and it has a high profile to it, it works to our benefit.
- Gaining power – It’s an added honor to helping with praise when you do something that advances their career and stature in the organization. Helping someone gain stature because of the quality of work we provide helps all the more.
- Having fun – It helps when your customer likes you socially. Just does. If you can, find something that fosters the friendship or builds the relationship. It may be a mutual interest. It may be your sense of humor. Becoming someone the customer looks forward to seeing helps the customer relationship.
- Making a profit – You would think this is the most important thing but Godin suggests it is not. In most customer relationships, people are spending the owners’ money. Everyone knows profit is essential. But, when it comes to careers, the other five issues have a way of making an impact. Profit is necessary but it may not always be primary.
When I look at those six items, the vendors who I value most have done all six things. When I look at those items, the people I have served the best would report that I helped in all six areas.
It’s a great lesson in salesmanship and service whether your customer is internal or external.