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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Why Do They Buy?

Typically, customers buy from two perspectives:

  • Value/quality/solutions: These customers tend to make rational decisions and are concerned about budget, durability, and return on investment for their organizations.

  • Reliability/convenience/image: These customers tend to make emotional decisions and are concerned about low buying risk, trust, and prestige for themselves.

The relative importance of each of these factors depends on the individual customer, but one thing is certain: customers must have some degree of excitement (emotion) about your product or service if you are going to make a sale. If they don't care, they won't buy. Logic, data, or a rational approach aren't always sufficient to change people's minds; they have to like what they hear. So even a proposal based on logic must have some degree of emotional appeal.

We tend to think of people who make decisions based on emotions as those people who show and express emotion. But everyone has emotions—it's just that some people don't show them as often or as openly. Some people base their emotions on logic, facts, or data as opposed to hunches, intuition, or trends, but they still have emotions. They may say something like, "The last vendor didn't meet our quality specifications" or "We count on you to get us everything you promised" or "Reliability is our first priority" or "We always come in under budget." All of these are expressions about what is important to these people or to their companies. They relate to resources, schedules, or deliverables. These people are expressing their expectations, priorities, and preferences. If you don't deliver, they will have a reaction. You can count on it.

The majority of business leaders are concerned about such things as quality, due dates, control, reliability, and flexibility. But many also focus on how much they feel they can trust the salesperson's competence, the reputation of the company the salesperson represents, whether people inside their organization will support their decision, and whether their decision will help or hurt their career.

Why is it important in sales to know how to appeal to people emotionally? Because no matter whom you are selling to, you have to get to their heart before you can get to their head. Before they are willing to nod their head in agreement, they have to be willing to admit that they like what they hear, are comfortable with the facts or data, and are willing to take the risk—however small it may be—to move ahead. If you neglect to connect with them at their gut level, you may not connect at all. Don't project your way of thinking onto the customer. Ask questions that allow you to determine their preferences; observe the way they like to work; then be consistent with those preferences, and you will find you have greater success making the sale.

Here is an example of how well this marketing strategy (identifying who your customers are and why they buy) can pay off. The largest car rental company isn't the one you probably think it is. As I write, the largest car rental company is one that focuses on supplying cars for people who are without their own cars temporarily (such as when their cars are being repaired). They developed and dominate a market that for the most part they don't share with the other car rental companies, because the other companies compete for business primarily at airports. The company is Enterprise. They get 95 percent of their business from local rentals.

A big part of Enterprise's market is supplying rental cars for people whose cars have been damaged in auto accidents. They work closely with auto insurers who make the reservation for the policyholder. Enterprise streamlined the rental process for insurers, bringing it online and making it user-friendly. The online system speeds up the process and lowers costs. As reported in CIO magazine, rentals from companies that use the online service have grown at two to three times the rates of companies that don't. Enterprise responded to the needs of these business customers, and in doing so kept itself positioned with its business partners in this market.

Another example is the insurance company USAA. USAA sells only to military officers and their dependents. It covers 95 percent of that market. Its formula, as described by chief executive Robert Herres in a 1996 Fortune article, is: "First, you decide who you want your customers to be. Then you decide what they need and want. Then you figure out which of those needs you can meet, and then you do that better than anyone else."[*]

Here's a quick way to find out what your customer or prospective customer sees as being most important in the buying decision. Use this approach once you know you are talking with the decision maker.

  • Prepare a list of the criteria that should be used in making a decision to purchase your product or service.

  • Don't put anything on the list that you can't do or don't do well.

  • Ask the customer to tell you, in terms of importance to him or her, all the criteria that will bear on his or her purchase decision. To help you with this, see the suggested ideas in the following list:

    Functionality

    Ease of use

    Reliability

    Payment options

    Warranty

    Attitude of employees

    Thoroughness

    Variety of products

    Convenience

    Ease of updating

    Style

    Reputation

    Money-back guarantee

    Service after the sale

    Customized solutions

    Carefulness

    Uniqueness

    Ease of ordering

    Ease of repair

    Durability

    Delivery time

    Return policy

    Response time

    Prestige

    The salesperson

    Price or cost

Your list might include six items, for example. Once the customer has listed the items, you can then ask the customer to discuss why he or she considers each one to be important.

Seven Keys for Customer Relationships

  • Where do your products have the best fit (now and in the future)?

  • Which customers do you work best with?

  • What kind of support does the customer want or expect?

  • How much and what kind of communication does the customer want?

  • What does the customer value most (in priority order)?

  • How well are you performing in providing each aspect of what they expect?

  • How well does your account team work to support the customer's needs?

    "None of us sells anything that anyone needs."

    —Bob Baker, who runs an off-road course for Land Rover owners

[*]"Growing Your Company: Five Ways to Do It Right!" Fortune (November 25, 1996): 81.


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