Think Like the Buyer

I wrote a poem. It goes like this …

Think like the buyer, not like the supplier.

That is it. That is the title, the poem, the whole thing. I would have written, “Think like the customer, not like the …” But, I couldn’t come up with a word to rhyme with customer!

What I mean by this short phrase is that sometimes we think we know what our customers want, but what they want is something completely different. So we need to get inside our customers’ heads and give them what it is that they want versus what it is that we think that they want.

How do you get inside their heads? Well, we don’t do this by using ESP to read their minds. It is much simpler than that. We simply think and come up with the right questions to ask to make sure we are giving the customer what it is that they really want.

For example, I used to work at an auto parts store, and one of my responsibilities was to work the counter. People would come in and buy parts. They would tell me what part they wanted and the make, model and year of their car. I would look up all of this information in a catalog – back then we didn’t have the luxury of computers to do this – run in the back of the store and bring up the part.

Well, one day a wanna-be mechanic walked into the store. He asked me for a part for the “right side” of his car. Some of you may laugh, but there are certain parts that are different for the right and left side of the car, and if you are a mechanic, you know which is the right and left side. Well I looked up the part number and brought up a box that even had the words right side stamped on it. An hour later he came back to return the part because I had sold him a part for the wrong side of his car. Oh, he must have wanted to buy a part for the other right side!

Think about it. If you are sitting in the car, the right side would be the passenger side. If you are standing in front of the car with the hood up, the right side of the car is the driver side. So which side is the right side? A real mechanic would know.

Who’s fault was this mistake? If he was a “real” mechanic, he would have known. But it was my responsibility to sell him the right part. To make sure I didn’t have a problem like this again, I came up with a question to ask the customer when he or she asked for a part for the right or left side of the car: “Do you mean the passenger or driver side?” The customer would tell me and I never made a mistake or had a problem with this again.

The key to understanding your customer is to ask the right questions. Know what the customer wants. Don’t assume anything. Ask questions and have things repeated so you don’t make mistakes. The customer expects it done right, the first time and every time.

Here is one more example on a personal level that we can all relate to. I was driving down Olive Street Road in St. Louis, Missouri with my wife and we drove by an ice cream store. She looked over and asked me, “Honey, would you like some ice cream?”

I said, “No” and kept on driving.

Now, most of you realize that she wasn’t really asking me if I wanted ice cream. What she meant was that she wanted ice cream. What she was thinking was, “Honey, I want some ice cream, and I don’t care if you want some. Just pull over and let me get some ice cream.”