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Knowing Your Customer -- Questioning Power

Aug 23, 2008
During good economic times it is important to know what your customer is thinking, however in uncertain economic times it is "crucial".

As market conditions change, it is important to understand the following questions you can simply ask your customers. Being sure you are on top of your customer's concerns, by doing research, is a powerful information-gathering tool. These questions will help you understand how you need to change with the current market conditions.

* What are they worried about?
* Where are they focusing; where are they focusing their buying?
* How are they responding to the recession?
* How are they defining value?

The take-away is that you have understood your customers and can change your approach. Based on your research you may have to give more reassurances that the purchase is not risky. Perhaps use more testimonials, show them that you are the expert/authority to lead them through these times and provide them with tangible ROI.

It's key to remember: People DO spend but their behaviors change and so should you.

I thought it would be helpful to list some examples of things you might find while doing your research. You should strive to get even more specific information from your customer -- here are the general trends you might encounter:

* Your customers plan on spending less vigorously than they did before but they *are* spending (find out where they are spending)
* Your customers are applying more scrutiny than they did before
* They are reluctant to make big purchases
* Your customers need lots of reassurance to make their purchase (ROI, guarantees, etc.)
* People think maintenance rather than expansion

Now, it is up to you.

You may want to change the products you sell or emphasize the products that match the research you found. For instance, if your customer is focusing on maintenance, what products can you present to them? (Ex: virtualization, managed services, etc.)

You may also want to repackage what you have or focus on smaller sales; make the chunks bite-sized rather than focusing on large purchases. Be creative about what you are offering. Provide on-demand or SaaS-type products or simply add a creative offer to an existing solution.

It seems to me that instead of trying to lower price, thus lowering your margins, you need to be adding lots of value to your clients. That is a long-term strategy you should always employ, not only in uncertain economic times.
About the Author
Ramon provides more marketing information, especially created for the IT VAR industry but also applies to everyone who wants to improve their sales. Stay up-to-date at StreetSmartVAR.com and while you're there, don't forget to sign up for Ramon's popular, no-cost online marketing course!
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