People support what they help to create. This is why customer feedback is so important early and often. Early, we are guessing at what the customer wants. We take our best guess, and then we go and build. We then gather feedback: what do they like; what do they dislike; what can we improve upon? By giving us feedback, the customer is automatically seeing we listen, we care, and they get a little skin in the game. Skin in the game is what they need to support us, our product, our Mission. We should seek this support early and often because it gives us early fans and deeper, long-term relationships, which is what all businesses need. It’s far easier to sell more things to the same people when you already have deep relationships with them. We already have the know, like and trust factor with them, which makes it that much easier to sell them more. And if we’re cool to them, if we give them terrific value for what they get, why wouldn’t they do more with us?
People need validation for their ideas and answers. Even if you don’t need them, they need the psychological safety that they feel heard. No one likes having their ideas ignored, either internal or external to the org. People have to feel heard because feeling heard feels like you matter to the other person. Yes, really. One of the worst things you can do is ignore people, especially customers. Pay attention to them! Hear them out! Even if they’re mad at you. Sometimes people need to vent. It’s OK. They’ll still want to do business with you. But /listen/ to them! It doesn’t matter who you are — you need people to hear you. The sales and marketing pro that takes the time to listen to his people, to his customer and reflect back what she hears wins every time. Might seem small, but it isn’t. No. Feeling heard is the bedrock foundation of great relationships. Keep listening. Keep asking. Keep building together.
Dedicated customers love having a hand in building new products with their suppliers. They like to know their ideas are valued and tended to. Why? People love shaping the future of a product strategy, even if their ideas are not 100% adopted. Think about it: wouldn’t you like to have one of your ideas influence the product managers at Apple or Tesla or Google? What if you had a hand in creating and shaping a future product at one of these great tech companies? How cool would that be? When you’re a fan first, you’l be really excited to contribute your ideas to companies on the cutting-edge of the work. You’ll want to have a hand in it, and you’ll be super excited to offer the help. There are few things more exciting within a firm than helping to create the future in product strategy. Let your customers help at the leading edge of that innovation. They’re the ones driving new product development anyway. Get them involved early and often.
People need to feel seen and heard and acknowledged. This is basic to human psychology. And yet so many of us do not get these feelings regularly. Not at work. Not at home. Not even with our friends. It’s like we’re all walking around, feeling ignored most of the time. This isn’t good for us. This isn’t good for our psyche. This isn’t good for businesses. But it spells opportunity for the sales and marketing pro that sees, asks, listens and acknowledges her customers and their problems. Why? Because so few people are willing to take the time to do this! We’re too self-involved / self-indulgent to do this. We’re too me-focused and not other-focused. We’re not building together. We’re trying to shove our stuff onto them without enough time and value. We’re being selfish when we should be far more generous. But how do we do this?
We offer them a story they can step into that reflects their struggle, their problem.
We have to enter the conversation currently going on inside their mind. Enter the struggle. Reflect the problem back at them. Agitate it a bit. Show them that you understand them first. All this will do is /blow them away/ that you see them, hear them, /get them/. People won’t care what you know until they know that you care, and that you’re here to help them. You do this by seeking to understand them first. You’re here to reflect their story back to them. You’re here to help them solve their problem. Even if you don’t quite fully understand their problem, you can lead with attention and eagerness to understand it. And even if you cannot immediately help them to solve their problem, you can offer resources and other experts to help them out. And the customer will feel better for having vented a bit to you because they will have felt heard. Feeling heard is a part of the value you offer. Ask. Ask. Ask. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Make the customer the hero. Make them feel like they are the hero of the story you bring them. This is a powerful concept because we all have visions of ourselves as the hero of our own story. Who doesn’t want to be the hero? Your customer certainly does. And they get there by overcoming problems and obstacles along the path to the Promised Land. As sales and marketing pros, we are the guides along the journey. We are here to help with guidance, confidence and tools to offer our customer. We give them things they need. We give them things they may not know they need. Since the hero is often not ready to heed the call yet, we transfer confidence to the customer, ensuring he can take on what he needs to take on to win the day. We want to help. We are already ready.