All these dang customers. So many people wanting to BUY stuff from me! If they’d just leave me alone, maybe I could actually get some WORK done, you know?
Do you ever feel that way?
The Problem with Customers
Of course we all know that customers are kind of necessary. But nonetheless, they are challenging. See, if working with people was so easy, everyone would be rich. And that’s what running a successful small business is about. It’s about effectively working with people.
If you can’t be effective with people, you won’t be effective in your business.
This is a big hang up with the internet crowd, because so many of us are focused on click-throughs and impressions and other non-human lingo that we easily get out of touch with the fact that it’s PEOPLE we’re selling to. This is the salesman in me talking of course, but I think it’s a valid point.
The internet business is a people business. You have to understand people…how they work, how they think, what they want. If you don’t dig into this, your blog, your landing page, etc…will all fall short of the effectiveness it could have. Bottom line, you won’t reach your potential until you get good at engaging with people on a human level.
If you pay attention to the underlying message of a lot of the content on Next Level Blogger, it speaks to this very thing. Next Level Blogger is sales training, disguised as blogging tips and such. Get it? I’m pulling a fast one on you 😉
That said I want to mention the biggest problem with customers that I’ve found. If you can get over this hurdle, your business will run more smoothly. Here is the biggest problem:
Customers don’t know what they want, but they desperately want YOU to give it to them.
See how that might be a problem?
People Don’t Know What They Want
Seriously, people don’t know what they want. Look at a group of people trying to decide even the most mundane thing like where to go for dinner. It takes 15 minutes to decide. No one can make up their mind. It’s a restaurant for god’s sake! You’ve done this a million times. Still, our minds cannot be made up 😉
And then when we get there, what happens? We stare at the menu, like we’ve never seen this stuff before! Some of you are decisive and know what you want, yes. You represent 5% of the population. Everyone else is not in touch with what they want. It’s the human condition. Most of us know we want SOMETHING, and we assume we know what it is, but we don’t. Why? Because there is an immense amount of emotional baggage we carry with us into every situation. It clouds our every judgment.
When we’re kids, we know what we want. Where do you want to eat? MCDONALDS! What do you want to eat? CHICKEN NUGGETS! There is no hesitation. We know what we want, and it fills us with joy just thinking about it! Fast forward 20 years, decisions are a lot more complex, aren’t they? Why? Is the selection of restaurants a lot more complex? No. It’s the same as it’s ever been. And it’s not because we like so many more things. It’s because we have accumulated emotional baggage we didn’t used to have when we were kids.
When you ask a kid where they want to go, they don’t think about things like:
- Is it too expensive?
- Is it in a convenient location?
- How was the service last time?
- What will everyone else think of me if I want to eat at McDonalds?
- Do they have food that will work with my diet?
Of course, the list goes on. Kids don’t think about this stuff. They know what they want, and they give you a straight answer. As adults, getting a straight and helpful answer is not so easy. But it’s doable. It requires a little digging. And that’s what we need to do as business owners. We need to dig. There is another word for this. The word is “sales”.
Digging is Essential
Learning to dig is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your bottom line and help your customers in a much more personal way. How do you dig? You ask questions. Questions are powerful. There is a concept called “going three deep” that I learned from a great sales trainer Howard Brinton. It’s a great concept that I recommend to everyone involved in selling a product or service.
The basic idea is to never take anyone’s answer at face value. Why? Because they don’t really know what they want, remember? But they DO have needs, wants and desires. It’s our job to uncover them. We do that by asking questions. Not just one, but three or more.
How to Dig
Here is an example of “going three deep”:
Home buyer: I definitely want the home I buy to have a basement.
Real estate agent: No problem. Why is that?
Home buyer: I use the basement in my current home for storage. I have a lot of crap. A basement is essential.
Real estate agent: That makes sense. Do you use a basement for anything other than storage?
Home buyer: No that’s pretty much the point of a basement.
Real estate agent: So if there’s a home with no basement but that DOES have all the storage space you need and then some, do you want me to exclude it, or would you like to check it out?
Home buyer: Well if it really has all the storage space we need, then yes we should look at it.
What happened here? Most real estate agents would simply take an order from a client and only show them homes that have basements. By going three deep, we find out that the client doesn’t care about basements at all! They want storage space. Surely, a basement is a terrific way to accomplish this, but it is by no means the ONLY way. It’s also in many cases one of the most EXPENSIVE ways to get more storage space. So we’ve made a lot more homes available, a lot more opportunities to make a sale, and we might even save the client a lot of money.
Do you see the power in asking questions? When we take people’s answers at face value, we make powerful assumptions…assumptions that are often wrong. By being willing to dig a bit, we can uncover some real gold and learn what our customers REALLY want. It’s not like they’re hiding it from us intentionally. It is our duty to be diligent.
Your customer is not the professional. You are the professional.
By applying this single technique to your interactions with your clients, customers and colleagues, you will find your interactions a lot more clear, a lot less hazy. You will be able to get more targeted results in a lot less time. You will become more effective at working with people.
Applying this to Blogging and Internet Marketing
It’s one thing to be able to “go three deep” when you’re face to face with a customer. It’s entirely different when you’re running a blog or otherwise selling online, correct? I’d argue not so much. One of the reasons I’m in this space talking about building a business online is because I’ve successfully built up several websites using these principles. There’s a certain amount of translation when it comes to moving your sales strategy online, but the principles on human interaction remain the same. Social media makes all this possible.
Conversing takes place on different platforms when you’re marketing online. Etiquette may be a bit different, but the differences are not as acute as they may seem from the outside. I interact with my readers and clients pretty closely. We email, IM, leave comments on each other’s blogs, etc. Just because we’re using new platforms to communicate does not change the nature of communication. The same principles apply.
If you’re NOT interacting with your audience on this level, then I suggest you start. Can you maintain an intimate dialog with every single person? It depends on what level you’re at and the size of your community of course. I don’t have a huge audience like a Chris Brogan or Gary Vaynerchuk. When your community grows to such a size, the rules change. But then again, so does the very nature of the opportunities at your disposal. But even when your reach is that far, the basics always still apply. Look at how those guys hustle. If they have to hustle, so do all of us.
Yes, your success may eventually take you to the point where you cannot personally connect with every single person. One important point about that:
That type of success is optional in most cases. Unless you are a complete freak of nature, growing an audience to that size is simply not done on accident. It’s done deliberately. And importantly, it is only one model of business. Don’t assume you have to be “huge” to be successful. I don’t have any one email list larger than 11k, but they are highly targeted, powerful lists. Trust me, even a very small list can produce a lot of revenue for your company, if it’s comprised of responsive, engaged and highly relevant subscribers.
I personally like small, powerful sites and small, powerful businesses. It’s my thing. I understand it’s not the only way of doing things, but I urge you to consider your options. The A-listers of the world are always easy to see, and it’s understandable to want to model them. However, don’t make the assumption it’s the only way to go. In fact, there are many low key, highly effective, highly powerful ways to build a business.
To me, human interaction and being personally engaged with your audience puts you in a position to truly care about who you’re working for, and that’s the best way to go. I find a lot of value in not being huge. Is that just sour grapes? If you’re creating massive value for your audience and getting paid well to do it, isn’t that what matters? Does it really matter how BIG your audience is? What do you think?