I’d like you to think about your customers and prospects for a moment- more specifically, about how they spend their time when going through the decision cycle for the solutions you offer. How much time, as a percentage of the total time they have, do you think they actually spend evaluating YOUR solution? In the last twenty years we have asked this same question of thousand of sales people. A few optimistic people will say 5 or 10 percent, but the sales veterans know better. “If my customer spends 1 to 2 percent of his or her time thinking about my products,” one person said recently, “I would consider that I’ve really got his attention.” Most believe their customers spend less than 1%.
Here’s the problem, when most salespeople today talk about “focusing on the customer,” their well-intentioned plan is to determine what the customer needs and how their solutions can address those needs. Unfortunately, that’s not enough any more- and I don’t really believe it ever has been. In fact, focusing on what your prospect or customer needs, or says she needs, can often take the salesperson on a long slow ride to the land of missed opportunities; where well meaning sales people work hard but deliver little value to their prospects and earn little for the time they spend.
So what does it REALLY mean to focus on the customer, what’s the right approach? When we say you should focus on the customer, we mean that you should focus on what the customer is focused on. That may or may not be the problems and solutions you’ve got your eye on. But one thing is certain. Whatever your customer is focused on, it is not –I repeat not– your products or solutions.
This is the painful but undeniable truth. As a B2B sales professional you can’t afford to forget that your prospects spend a minuscule proportion of their time thinking about and evaluating your proposals. The only reason they spend any time at all doing this is that they believe there is at least the potential your products and/or services can have an impact on what they’re really thinking about: Their business vision, goals, plans, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, processes, people.
That’s right. While your customers may be spending 1% of their time actually dedicated to evaluating your particular solution, you can be absolutely certain they are spending the other 99% + of their time focused on their business, what they’re trying to accomplish. If you don’t live where they live, know what keeps them awake at night, what new products they’re launching, what competitors they’re battling or the market conditions in which they operate, 1% of their attention is not only all you’ll get, it’s all you’ll deserve.
So it’s your choice to be a part of the 1% or the 99%. The truth is, the percentage of mindshare you get from your customers will be directly proportional to the percentage of time you spend dedicated to understanding their business and finding ways in which you positively impact what they are trying to accomplish. The more you know about your customer’s business outside the realm of your products and services, and the greater the resulting impact, the more mindshare you’ll earn.
In this case, you can be certain I want to be a part of the 99%.