May 24, 2005
Test Your Customer IQ
by Barbara Bix
It will come as no surprise that customers want it their way (to paraphrase
Burger King). Yet many companies don't have processes for figuring out
what that means.
Take this quiz to assess your customer "IQ" (or "Insight
Quotient") and determine the necessary next steps for shortening
your sales cycle.
you describe your firm's most promising prospects?
you identify the most important problem you solve
they recognize they have this problem?
you know what events trigger a need for your solution?
you rank their top three "buying criteria"?
it easy for prospects to identify your firm as
a possible vendor?
they know you can help them?
you know where they turn for information?
you know how they learned about your firm?
they remember you when it comes time to buy?
If you've answered eight or more
with a "yes"—congratulations:
you probably have a line outside your door! If you've answered four to
seven with a "yes," check out the tips below to increase
your customer IQ. If you've answered fewer than three in the affirmative,
consider spending more time with your customers.
Customer insights drive sales. To win, you need
to give customers what they want, make it easy
that they know you
exist and can meet their needs. Each of these requires
deep customer knowledge, because everyone buys
buys a Cadillac shops differently from the guy
who drives a Honda Civic.
1. Examine your past successes
Which customers were easiest to attract? The most
profitable? Bought the quickest? Became steady
are the successes that you want to replicate.
Look for clues that will help you and others identify
these prospects. Do they have any common characteristics
as location, size,
industry or products purchased? Was there a particular
event that caused them
to purchase when they did? Did they hear about
you from a particular source?
The more specifically that you can describe your
ideal prospects, the easier it will be to find
Concentrating your firepower on those accounts
will dramatically improve your
2. Ask, don't guess
People buy for a variety of reasons. Yet, to capture
their attention, you need to communicate a simple,
Only after you grasp people's attention can you
provide them with all
information that they require to make their buying
The best way to identify that initial message is
to focus on your most promising prospects. Ask
how they made their decision, why they bought from
Then ask: "What was the single most important reason that you selected
our company?" Surprisingly, it is not uncommon for customers to
produce an answer that they never mentioned when providing a laundry
list of what they were looking for and how they purchased. Sometimes
this is because multiple people were involved in the decision, but
one person's preferences carried more weight. Other times, it is because
while the whole list of things was important, only one dimension differentiated
your firm from the competition. Or customers may come up with an unexpected
answer because this is the first time that they've had a chance to
on what ultimately mattered.
The important thing is that you won't know if you
3. Understand the key decision points
Especially for large purchases, getting the sale
depends on a number of factors. Before a firm can
you, nine things
happen. Customers must...
a need for your services
that that they have that need
ready to buy
that your firm exists
that your firm can address their concerns
your firm when it comes time to buy
that your offering has the features that
your solution is priced appropriately
it easy to do business with you
If prospects fail to meet even one of these criteria,
chances are the business will go to someone
Each stage in the sales cycle represents an
opportunity to capture prospects' attention
and woo them
from the competition.
For example, if you are spending time wooing
prospects that don't need or recognize your
be spent with
those who do. Similarly, potential prospects
won't buy from you unless they know what you
think of you
when it comes time to purchase. Even those
who want to buy will lose interest
if they encounter obstacles, if your product
or service lacks the necessary features or
The good news is that if you can identify the
points at which you are losing traction, it
behooves firms to have a system for capturing
the information that they require to measure
at each stage.
Key components include processes
that require obtaining direct or market feedback
at each stage, tracking the length of time
a particular opportunity
at each stage
of the sales cycle and capturing the reasons
Once you know which criteria buyers are failing
to meet, you can put marketing programs in
situation. If prospective
customers don't recognize that they need your
discomfort by sharing stories of how their
peers used them to increase profitability.
it comes time
to buy, consider inexpensive ways to stay high
on their radar such as regular
mailings. If your solution is falling short,
you need to enhance it or search for another
segment that will
value it "as is."
Knowledge is power when it comes to winning
new business. Seize the competitive advantage
customers want and
prefer to buy.
Then, give it to them... well, THEIR way!