Retailers build and maintain relationships by satisfying buyers’ professional andpersonal needs. Professional needs — which include the need for improving a company’s image, production, or financial status — is readily determined by the customer’s title. If you’re dealing with an owner or someone high up in the organization, chances are whatever they produce, whether it’s a trophy, plaque, crystal piece, or a custom gift, they’re going to look at that and ask how it satisfies the needs of having a great image in the eyes of its employees, customers, or community — whoever it is that they’re serving at the time. If the customer is someone in operations or in production, then production might be the strongest of those three professional needs. If communicating with an accountant or controller, then the financial status is usually the strongest of those three needs.
Once you find out the title of the decision maker, you’ll have a better chance of being able to determine the strongest of those unmet needs. However, if you focus solely on satisfying a customer’s professional needs, then the customer only views you as a vendor at best.
To illustrate this, imagine a two-by-two matrix. Along the x-axis is personal needs; the left is unsatisfied needs and the right satisfied needs. And then along the y-axis, you’re going to have professional needs; the bottom is unsatisfied; and the top is satisfied. If you are not satisfying either professional or personal needs, then you are viewed as an outsider. If you only satisfy the professional needs and not the personal needs, then the best you can aspire to be is a vendor, so you put vendor in the upper left box. When you satisfy their personal needs but not their professional needs, you are typically viewed as a friend. But when you satisfy both professional and personal needs, then you are viewed as a partner. In most cases, that is what you want to aspire to.
Get to know the decision maker from the buying side on a personal level. If you strive to know your clientele better than your competition does, you can’t miss. Even if the person is private and does not divulge a lot of information, if you know more about them or become friendlier with them than the competition does, then you have a better chance of getting the business done and maintaining the repeat business.
Things you want to get to know about them are their hobbies, their passions, how they spend their off-time, family activities, and beliefs. Finally, get to know the need behind the need. For example, let’s say a customer says they need next-day delivery. There should be a couple of questions that should be asked, such as if they are currently getting next-day delivery. If they are, then it’s not an unmet need. The more important question is, “Why do you need next-day delivery?” Let’s say the customer says, “Well, I have a closet full of this stuff and then people take it and don’t tell me when we’re out of it.” So, the need behind the need is not next-day delivery — they have a need for inventory control. If a salesperson teaches themselves to ask why something is important or why a customer has a specific need, then you oftentimes get to the need behind the need. Even if you make think you know why, it is best to have the customer express it in their own words why that particular aspect of the sale was important to them.
—Vince DiCecco, Your Personal Business Trainer