More price-sensitivity. Greater demand for “value added.” Remarkable scrutiny when it comes to determining “return on investment.” Why are clients so demanding, all of a sudden?!
Well, first of all, this did not happen suddenly. It happened over time. During the Great Recession of December, 2007 through June, 2009, a rough economy had the effect of “thinning the herd.” A lot of businesses didn’t make it. And those that did survive are the kind that hold the line on spending, expect more from their people (including vendors), and measure the results from any investment very carefully.
Whether you’re selling commodities, manufactured goods or business-to-business services, you can expect every client to be one tough customer. The weak customers are gone.
There’s a way to prepare for today’s more demanding customer:
- For heaven’s sake, EXPECT a more demanding customer. If you’re shocked by the idea that clients are more demanding, you’re asleep at the wheel.
- Focus on what the customer is trying to accomplish through their relationship with you. Chances are, they do not want your widget. They want what your product or service helps them accomplish.
- Don’t just listen for the customer’s input; listen carefully for clues about the outcome that she expects. Is she after a lower unit cost for the commodity you’re selling? Or is her goal a higher profit margin for the finished product? (The latter might not necessarily involve cutting your price, but enhancing the production and marketing of the finished product.)
The U.S. has been in recovery for 33 months now, far longer than the 19-month term of the recession. I can think of ten companies—quickly—that did not survive the period. Those that remain deserve our respect… and the best value we can muster. That means listening closely, solving problems collaboratively, and striving for the mutual win. Yes, it’s tougher today. But if you’re still in this business, you’re tougher, too.
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Mike Anderson is VP / Consumer Insights and Communication at The Center for Sales Strategy.