Knowing the buying motives of your prospects is both vital to successful selling and harder than it may seem. So how do you really uncover their motives? You may have a list of dozens of questions that you ask your prospects in an attempt to learn more about what they really want. Questions are great, and they have the potential to resolve at least some of the mystery. That said the best targets for your questions are your previous customers.
There's an interesting story I heard many, many years ago about a Japanese electronics manufacturer who was planning to bring boom boxes to this country. They were evaluating whether they should manufacture yellow ones or black ones; they didn't want to risk the capital to manufacture both colors without knowing which one would be a bigger hit with their target audience. As you might expect, a focus group was convened with a bunch of kids who represented the target demographic to buy these machines. After showing both models, talking about the options, and then circulating a survey to complete, it appeared that the kids unanimously preferred yellow… well, at least according to the surveys.
Fortunately, this was not this particular focus group facilitator’s first rodeo. At the end of the focus group session – after the surveys had been collected – he offered the following closing: "Okay, great! Thanks for joining us today and sharing your feedback with us. We've written it all down. Anyway, we're flying back to Tokyo tonight, and we're obviously not going to take these extra boom boxes back with us. In fact, we’re not taking any of the food back either, so fill up your pockets with the extra sandwiches and drinks and give them to your friends… and while you’re at it, feel free to take whatever boom boxes you want. Whatever you don’t take, we're going to donate because it’s not worth the cost to ship this gear back to Japan.”
He then sat back and watched as every single person in the focus group picked up a black boom box and walked out of the room. Every single yellow one remained on the table.
What does this story prove? An old salt in sales once told me, “Buyers are liars, and sellers are storytellers.” And the funny thing is, many buyers don’t even know they're lying when they tell you what their motives are. Sometimes potential buyers think that they feel a certain way – or perhaps they think that they should have a certain preference – yet when it comes down to actually writing a check for what they said they'd buy from you, it’s a totally different story.
So, what to do? As mentioned above, ask previous customers – people who have actually written you a check – “Why did you do business with my company? What did you most admire about our product or service? Did we deliver all of the things that we promised during the sales process?" And then ask the golden question, "Are there any other benefits that you experienced in the wake of doing business with us that we did not mention when you were making the decision to do business with us?"
Questions like these get to the heart of why your past customers actually decided to buy from you. Moreover, they’ll inform the way in which you approach future sales opportunities with both your present customers and new prospects.
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