Intent Blog

What do you Need to Find Out in Order to Know your Customer?


Know your customer, and they will consistently select you over other service providers. Keeping customers is always a matter of maintaining relationships and this requires that you know them intimately. The question is however: What should you want to know about your client? Is the demographics from big data not enough?

Big data is one way of knowing but it is not perfect. Big data is “after the fact,” it is information in lag time. I am writing here about how to link with a client’s decision making strategy. How to create an emotional connection. As much as possible then you want to have more up to date contextual data on specific clients.

People using the old model of “need satisfaction selling” gave recognition to the fact that big data was not enough (see a previous article why customer satisfaction is not enough). Sales people spent appropriate time on “qualifying the client” in which they identify the needs of the client. Unfortunately, the need of a client is only an indication of the “when,” not the “what.” An example of this difference is when a person is hungry and they need food, that indicates the timing: food now, or soon. There is no way that one, knowing only that somebody is hungry, also knows what food to offer. Unless one got involved in a question and answer conversation, the offering of the right food will be a random success. Or, like very young babies, they must eat what mother decides.

The decision about the “what” is a value based decision. To expand on the hunger example. A person on a diet would prefer something that would be like the diet. An exception would be if they decide to break their own rule for the upcoming meal and cheat. If I wished to be on the mark with a food offering, it will be important to know and acknowledge that exception. To show understanding for this exception is also the start to an emotional connection. It is only through this contextual information that this can be achieved though.

Not only is information about the needs of a client not enough, we are also dealing with a new type of client. This new client is one who knows about more than one sales offering that would work for them. Not only are they aware of a range of options, but they are also aware of a variety of suppliers. The challenge for the seller has become: how do I become and stay the buyer’s preferred supplier?

In a previous article on getting repeat business I pointed out that one of three key factors is to get an emotional connection. Let me just give a brief explanation of the “why” behind the “what.” Etsko Schuitema in his research since the early 80’s has found that if you ask people what they aspire to, they give a blend of 5 answers. (please refer to his book “The Two Sandals,” p.3, if you need in depth information.) The aspirations comfortably fit into 5 categories: security, fulfilment, power, harmony, and growth. Here is the secret: these aspirations do not only apply to work. Ask people about their aspirations about their home life, how they spend leisure time, what is important in their relationships, and you will get similar answers. And, these aspirations, also apply to people’s selection of a preferred service supplier. Link with people’s aspirations, and you link with them emotionally. Some examples to follow from a few industries, ranging from commodities, real estate, pharmaceutical and insurance:

Security: what I buy must be durable; to last a long time; no surprising side effects; not take much work; give me what I expect to get.

Fulfilment: what I buy allows me to fulfil a wish; it is something I have longed for; this solves a problem for me; this is what I need.

Power: what I buy is like an achievement; it makes a statement about my success; this is the result of good decision making.

Harmony: what I buy allows me to fit in with the group/membership; I contribute; I fulfil my responsibility.

Growth: what I buy is taking me the next step; this is an upward step for me; it is new and risky, but something I promised myself.

From a sales point of view, it means that saying one’s benefit of the product or service, if phrased in the language of the aspirations, touches the person emotionally. To use the language of aspirations well, the seller must ask the right questions. In the conversation about the “why” leading to the “what” the first step in engagement is taking place.

Armand Kruger

Armand Kruger qualified as a clinical psychologist at the University of Pretoria in 1972. Since 1973 he has been working with one burning question: How do successful people do it differently? What alternatives are they doing in their minds not done by the average or the underachiever? To answer that question he went outside of mainstream psychology to find cognitive process models that will capture the essence of success.