Tuesday, June 14, 2005

How Not to Learn from Customers

Well, I know there are a lot of people who look at me like I just hit them in the face with a cold salmon, but getting input from customers during a sales call on the customer is about as useful as a third ear. The setting of a sales call is not conducive to acquiring real, honest, useful information. The sales call is a negotiation, with each side trying to win. Yes, you can learn some useful information but if you don't balance this with calls on customers and prospects in a non-sales mode, you will have a very strange and biased point of view.

Better to take the time to do research interviews where your only goal is to listen to customers about their unmet needs. Record these and transcribe them. Then underline all the key statements made by the people being interviewed. Let their language come through; not your jargon. Let their emotions talk to you. Let them tell you about their needs and, more important, about their unmet needs. Record these underlinings into a spreadsheet and sort them, quantify them, rank them ... until you have a clear picture for how you can best help them in the future.

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