Use Your Head

Motivate Your Customers

Now let's talk about motivation. Why do customers buy from you? Is it because your product or service is the best on the market? Is it because you have strong relationships with your clients? These things can't hurt, but you need more than just a good widget to sell to a customer. You need ideas, because ideas are motivators.

The first step in coming up with ideas to wow your clients is to find out as much as possible about their businesses. I like to build a file for each prospect that contains everything I can find that pertains to his or her business. That file doesn't only have to contain items related to your product or service; it should cover anything you can find about the prospect's business, market and customers. And the information should be gathered as if you were the prospect. Ideally, you'll learn to think like your client.

Use a little library or online research and a little common sense, and you'll be able to answer your questions pretty accurately. If you want to know the dollar volume of the prospect's market, for example, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site. If you want to know how many locations the prospect operates, check the Yellow Pages. This kind of information is readily available at no cost to you.

Regardless of the type of business the prospect operates, ultimately he or she sells something. So find out who the prospect's customers are and why they buy this type of product or service.

Once you've learned about the basics of the client's business, you can develop a client goal to be reached or a need to be satisfied. Then it's time to get down to specifics on how to reach that goal. That's where ideas come in.

Creative sellers with open minds have an endless market for their ideas. But most people don't consider themselves creative enough. Some of us actually have lots of ideas but are hesitant to use them because we're afraid they won't be good enough. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it puts the onus of judgment on the wrong person. The salesperson or business owner shouldn't judge the merits of an idea-leave that to the prospect. If the customer thinks it's good-it's good! Put your idea in front of him or her using the best presentation skills you have, and let that prospect make the final judgment.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Use Your Head.

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