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  • Writer's pictureKevin Snow

Sun Tzu and the Art of Sales, Part 2: Know Your Adversary

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

"If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat."

There is a difference between "knowing" and "understanding" your customers. Knowing your customers really just means you know the demographics of your customers; their age, their locations, how much revenue they are generating, what content they are reading, etc. Most companies do this very well, but when it comes to really understanding customers, they don't dive deep enough to generate an accurate picture of who does business with them and most importantly, why. You have a lot of data about your customers, but if you don't understand what is going on in their head you won't get the results you want from your website, your emails or your sales presentations.

Here are three questions that will help you understand your customers better:

1. What keeps your customers awake at night?

"Delighting your customers doesn't build loyalty; reducing their effort - the work they must do to get their problem solved - does." - HBR

Your customers come to you for a reason. Understanding that reason is one of the most important steps in truly understanding your customers. What daily activity wastes their time, or stresses them out? If your messaging articulates this problem more clearly than they could have said it, they will believe that you can solve their problem. Find out what your customer's problems are and show them how you can help eliminate them.

2. How do your customers make the decision to buy?

The customer buying process describes the process your client goes though before they buy your product. How your buyers get from step one ("Do I have a need?") to making a justified decision.

As a rule a thumb, the more expensive the product, the more complex the purchase decision. Within businesses, major purchases normally require input from various departments including finance, accounting, IT management, and senior management. The participants all fulfill specific roles withing the process including Users, Influencers, Gatekeepers, and Decision Makers.

Understanding how your clients navigate the buying process and who needs to be involved and when is not only important for your salespeople but also for you to properly align your sales strategy accordingly.

3. Do your customers have their own language?

Different industries and businesses all have their unique language and terminology. If your sales message isn't being communicated in a language that resonates with your prospects, there are two things that may happen. One , they won't understand what you are telling them; and two, they will think that you don't actually know about their industry and their problems.

To speak the language of your customers, you need to understand the words they use to describe your products and services. How do they talk about trigger events and symptoms that make them seek out you and your competitors? What questions do they ask?

When you understand how they talk about their business and your services, you can adapt your stories and solutions to match their language.

Remember, sales is all about the customer. People don't buy because of your company or product. They buy because the sales person presented a compelling message showing how his product can solve the client's problem. Take time to understand your adversary and you can use that knowledge to win more deals.


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