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Previous customers hold the secret to future sales


I have been focusing on buying motives.

Reason? They’re a million times more powerful than selling skills. Make that a zillion. And here’s the best part — your competition is still “selling.”

How do you uncover buying motives? At the heart of understanding and capturing buying motives is a powerful strategy that’s almost always overlooked.

Ask previous customers. Ask them why they bought. Yes, it’s just that simple. Well, it will help if a few things are in place. First, you have to have a relationship with the customer. Second, you should have a reason to visit other than “taking.” The meeting will be much more communicative if you are offering something of value in exchange for the customer’s candor.

How do you find the real motive to buy?

The answer is not only simple; it’s been in front of your face since you began your sales or business career. The answer lies with your customers. If you go back and find their buying motives inside your last 10 sales to them, it’s likely that you will not only have the 11th, but also hundreds or thousands more.

The answer (as always) lies in the question.

When you begin to interview your present customers as to why they place an order with you, there is a set of questions for you to ask. You must master them. The dilemma is that you can only master them as you use them. They will entail extracting stories and nuances. They deeply question the customers’ understanding of their own thought processes.

The first thing you want to ask is the simple question, “Why did you buy?” Follow that with, “Tell me the history of your dealings with our company and tell me your history of the product whether it’s from us or not.” Stories will reveal subtle reasons: service, reliability, exceptional performance. If they remember the story, they will reveal motives as they tell it.

The next questions are a whole lot deeper and go into the real understanding of what made them choose you. What were the thoughts that went into their decision-making processes? How big a part did the salesperson play in the decision? How much did the buyers rely on their own gut instincts?

The real motive or motives may be two or three questions deep.

Going deep will reveal a wealth of knowledge and motive information.

Here are some sample questions that may uncover or help you uncover their motives:

How big of a role did the salesperson play in the decision?

How much consideration was given to profit when you selected us?

How much consideration was given to productivity when you selected us?

How much consideration was given to morale when you selected us?

How much consideration was given to your customers when you selected us?

Questions can also include words or thoughts about needs, desires, previous experiences, delivery and quality.

Obviously some motives are more important than others. As you interview more customers, common motives will begin to surface. Repeated motives are probably prime motives.

“Jeffrey, their motive to buy is price, you fool!” you rant.

Not so fast, sales genius. Price may not be the motive to buy, even if they state it as the reason.

If the customer says he bought for price, ask: Was price the only reason? And follow up as deep as you dare. Questions like: What were the other considerations? Was the product worth more money? Or, would another product have been worth a few more dollars? Or, what would have been a good justification for spending a few more dollars?

Major clue: Purchasing departments want the cheapest price; CEOs want value, productivity and profit.

There are good and bad motives. Some customers leave you. It’s equally as powerful to discover their motive for changing. Most salespeople think customers leave for “price considerations,” but most salespeople are wrong. Price is more often a symptom than a problem. Your job is to find the real reason and fix it as fast as possible.

Many people will read this and not get it. Good. Many people will read this and think it’s too much work. Good. These are the competitors you can crush.

Free GitBit: Want more information on why they buy? I have developed a list for retail and B2B that will give you a few ideas on creating a buying mood. Want it? Go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time user, and enter the words BUYING MOOD in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or by e-mail at salesman@gitomer.com

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