If you’re in business, you’re in sales. We all know that it’s far easier to service repeat customers than it is to fill our pipeline with new ones. Yes, we need to do both, but allow me to share with you another way to think about how you service your customers such that you create raving fans.
Have you ever thought about what it is that your customer needs and wants from you as a business owner?
I know this sounds like an obvious question, but, please bear with me. I want to share something that I recently learned from Don Miller when I attended his StoryBrand session in Franklin, Tennessee last month.
In short, Don contends that we all have a story. Your brand is a story that should be designed to meet the needs of your customers. In other words, it’s our job as business owners to be more conscious of our client’s external, internal, and in some instances, even their psychological wants or needs.
We want to service their story.
Allow me to explain a bit further how I interpreted this because I’m hoping this slight change in perspective might also help you think about ways to create more meaningful and purposeful results for your business and your customers.
1. The External Need
The external need is the most obvious service or product that our customer wants or needs.
Let me use the example of real estate. If you’re in that industry, the external need of your client would obviously be either to sell their home or to find a new one.
Your business is often aligned with this most obvious want or need, e.g., you sell real estate. Most of us focus our sales process on the external need. We sell and promote our carpet, our computer, our cars, or our furniture.
You get the idea.
The problem with focusing on the external need is this. You may provide an excellent service or product, but the customer can also get that product or service from a dozen other places.
As a business owner, this is problematic because YOU and THEY is missing from the equation. The focus is on the product or service, not the relationship.
If there is no relationship, you may then find yourself having to constantly look for new customers because you may not be getting the level of repeat business you need or because your existing customers are not offering you referrals.
This brings me to the internal need.
2. The Internal Need
The internal need of your customer goes a bit deeper. Going back to our real estate example, I may have an external need of selling my home, but underlying that need there may also be a more pressing internal need. I may need to sell that home immediately because my spouse lost his job six months ago, and I need to quickly downsize in order to survive.
It’s not too difficult to surmise that a real estate agent who understands this level of urgency during the initial stages of the sales process has a greater potential to get the listing. She would also have the challenge of systematically doing everything she can to sell this house in a more expedient fashion.
If she is wise enough to recognize this need and to sell the house in record time, she not only has a result, she has a relationship that can be nurtured and built upon.
Note that the internal need of your customer is often couched in some level of stress or emotion. It may not always be appropriate for you, as a business owner, to mine for that kind of information. However, if you do come to some understanding of this internal need during the sales process, you’d be wise to pay close attention. You’d also be wise to formulate a plan or solution that will serve this client at both the external and internal level.
When you’re able to do just that, you now have a loyal customer who will serve as an ambassador for you and your business.
3. The Psychological Need
This level goes to the heart of what your customer really wants or needs. Not every business owner will encounter a psychological need, but, here again, it behooves you to pay attention to signs that your customer may have something more profound going on than appears at the surface.
Sometimes we think we are meeting an external customer need when we are really there to meet a psychological need.
Here’s a very poignant example of what I mean.
My friend Jeannene Edwards of Interiors Defined has been in business as an interior designer for many years. Her services include private home design, professional office design, staging and design for residential builders, and home staging for people who are selling their homes.
Jeannene is also certified to design handicap accessible living accommodations for people experiencing changes in their life style due to aging or disability.
At first glance, her services may quite obviously fit into the external category. The client has a design need, and Jeannene and her team come in to service that need.
However, something very interesting has happened to Jeannene’s business over the last several years. As new and existing clients have moved into their later or ending stages of life, many have shifted from an external need for design services to a psychological need.
Jeannene is now finding herself not only doing the obvious design work. In some instances, she is transforming her clients’ living environments to accommodate their need for comfort, beauty, and peace of mind during the final stages of life.
What this essentially means is that Jeannene has had to reformulate how she thinks about her services and her clients. While the design work is still a major part of her work, she must also be a compassionate listener and comforter to clients in the midst of significant loss or life transitions.
The point is this. As business owners, we should be conscious of the needs of our customer so that we can accommodate them accordingly. While I would never advise digging for psychological needs in an effort to generate more business, the fact is that this level of need often presents itself when we are focused on our customer in ways beyond the sale and the bottom line.
When we are prepared to listen and meet those needs, we create raving fans that now become part of our professional, and in some instances, our personal community.
I invite you to consider a sales process that, at the very least, includes your being very intentional in how you listen for the needs of your clients. While it should never be obvious to your customer that you are hoping to meet all three needs, I am convinced that when we do so, we enrich not only their lives, but we enrich our own reason for being in business in the first place.