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What Are Your Customers Critical Buying Factors?

Customer Relationship Auditing Helps Determine Each Customer’s “Critical Buying Factors”

Do you know the factors involved in your customers buying process, and have they changed since you first signed them on?

A client thought they were solution providers until we analysed their customers’ needs. It turned out their customers wanted a solution provider and thought their supplier (my client) was a box dropper; a very nice friendly crowd, but still a box dropper.

Our client was (and still is) an IT solution provider. They had been doing the same thing for years and thought they knew their customers. What they didn’t realised is their industry had changed. Gone were the days where every company had their own large IT department with plentiful staff and all companies needed of a supplier was to be a box dropper. Companies were leaner and meaner and had outsourced their IT.

As a result companies did not have the traditional IT expertise in-house. They were now looking to their IT suppliers for that expertise; for experience, knowledge and guidance to help them with their IT solutions. The role of IT suppliers was changing and suppliers had to adapt or be left behind. Our client made the changes and is now a very successful listed IT player.

Although it is important for you to constantly keep your finger on the pulse, it is also essential for you to every so often explore what your customers would really like that you possibly are not delivering. Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty is the result of understanding customer needs, their environment, and the factors influencing their buying process.

Needs change over time.

Needs are not static and are constantly evolving. For example if you are hungry, all you can think of is eating, but once you have had something to eat that need disappears and another need pops up. Likewise for your customers. You satisfy their need and you do it so well they take you for granted, they forget what you are doing very well and other needs bubble up. If you are not on the ball you could lose that account to someone else who has gone to the effort to find out what their needs are and come up with a solution to meet those needs.

Unfortunately you cannot rely on your sales rep or key account manager to unearth these new evolving needs as they are often so busy with their current work load they do not have the time to sit down and unearth these new needs. Anyway they think they know what their customer wants and to start exploring new possibilities is totally out of their comfort zone. Also to unearth needs in an unbiased way is a whole new set of skills most reps do not have.

To determine what their needs are, get someone who is not in sales or who is completely neutral do the probing. They have to go in and ask your customers what they want from an ideal supplier, what would they look for if they had to start all over again looking for a new supplier. Ask your customer to think as broadly and laterally as possible and to not think about your company as that will give them a blinkered perspective. The more out of the box the better. Initially this is difficult for your customers but as they warm up more ideas will come as they think about things that have changed or things they have been thinking about. Be non judgemental about anything they may say and make sure you cover all aspects of your business.

Now ask your customer how well you are meeting these needs. From this you can get a picture of how well you are performing and where you need to improve. Also you will have unearthed huge potentials that you may not have been focusing on or thought that your customers wanted. These new areas will also be sources of new revenue for your company and could be just the thing to allow you to come roaring out of this recession.

Douglas MacGregor

Customer Relationship Auditing

“Building superior business relationships through client intelligence”

+27 (11) 805-3588 (direct)

+27 (82) 414-9394 (cell)

douglas@cra.co.za

www.cra.co.za