Know your customer - the art of selling?

A CEO of a company I worked for recommended the entire management team read ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu's Art of War. One of its most famous quotes is: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." And it could just as well be applied to sales. Assuming you know your product or service, read on to discover a range of articles we've found for you to help you learn how you can better know your customer.

The B2B buyer has evolved. With all that technology and information at her fingertips, her task got a lot easier. But hold on. We'd like to be clear that by "B2B buyer", we don't mean the Purchasing Officer. We mean any person involved in a B2B buying decision. For a concise look at what sorts of information buyers use, this infographic by SalesForLife is perfect.

what questions are they asking?

When they're seeking out that information, what questions are they trying to answer? This Content Marketing Institute article points out that the first and easiest place to find that out is your own customer support department. At Usher & Spur, we like to bring together anyone who has a customer-facing role to pull together views of what customers want to know, such as:

  • what questions they ask before they buy
  • what questions they ask once they buy
  • what content or collateral helps them most
  • what skills they need to use the product
  • what they say about why they bought

This helps us build a picture of our customer, that could be a complete persona, or could just be a description that helps us provide ready-made responses to commonly-asked questions, for use by Sales and for lead generation and nurturing.

what information do they need and where do they find it?

This article on MarketingProfs, by Ayaz Nanji, gives the results of a survey asking what types of information are used during the vendor-selection process, and which ones are most trusted. The buyer's own hands-on experience, as well as information that comes from other people with hands-on experience, is considered the most useful. It makes sense, right? And anything that is quantifiable also ranks highly.

Let's not forget that vendor selection is an advanced stage in the buying cycle. It results from a process of defining the problem to be solved and finding potential solutions. This process is iterative, with potential solutions found refining the definition. Which means you need to be found. And to do that, your content needs to respond not only to buyers' questions but to their concerns, with the goal of moving your potential customer forward in the buying decision. This article reviews the different types of content that can be appropriate at different stages of the decision.

The problem to be solved can vary according to viewpoint. Users, their managers, the departments that advise (such as IT and Finance), don't see things the same way. Here, Ayaz Nanji again gives us insight into who might be involved in a technology buying decision, and how they view things differently. It isn't just a matter of the function they occupy, but also their age. And here, he shows us how these different decision participants look for different types of content.

The only sure-fire way of knowing what your customer wants and why is to ask them directly. This article by the president of The Buyer Persona Institute emphasizes the importance of this, because "making stuff up" won't make your content stand out.

We get that when you're bogged down in operations, the groundwork needed to inform your strategy can seem overwhelming. Whether you need a guided information-gathering session with your customer-facing folks or someone to devise a script and call your customers directly, a consultant can help. In Montreal? Contact Usher & Spur.

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