66 Things You Should Know About Your Customer & some more

I just came across the article “66 Things You Should Know About Your Customer” in the Inc.com website written by Harvey Mackay. He talks about the importance of knowing your customer in selling to them.

He also stresses the fact that, even though you may be selling to a business or an organization, the real buyer is still an individual and it is important to know about the individual as much as you know about his company, if not more.

He also has developed Mackay 66, a 66-question customer profile that includes absolutely no information about the envelopes a company buys, but rather focuses on the person who does the buying.

I would like to contradict here a it with Harvey. Though I agree with him about knowing the person behind the decisions is very important, one must not get carried away with this facet of the selling. Successful sales people always care about the person making the buying decision or involved in the decision making process, but always make sure that they demonstrate clear value proposition for the customer organization as well. If one forgets this part and sells solely based on the relationship that they develop with the decision makers, they will not do any good for themselves in the long term as the buyers will understand sooner than later that they got manipulated to buy stuff that did not bring in value to their organizations.

So, it is important to know the 66 things about your real customer, but one needs to do a lot more than just knowing these things.

Successful sales people will not sell to a customer unless there is no demonstrable value for the customer organization in buying their product/services.

Selling real estate (Homes)

I have been out house hunting for some time now and am appalled at the quality of sales people and sales processes that are being used by the best in the industry.
The current sales process works as follows:
  1. Prospecting: Use advertisements (traditional & new age), road shows, email campaigns, etc to create awareness and interest in the project. Prospects who are interested in the property contact the builder.
  2. Qualification: The prospect is maintained in some system, CRM or otherwise, for future follow-ups. The only qualification question that is asked are the following:
    1. Type of apartment is the prospect interested in (Villa vs Apartment, 2 or 3 BHK, etc)
    2. What is the budget?
    3. What is the location?
  3. Closing: Provide the price list and negotiate the price to close the deal. If the deal is not closed in that meeting, the only follow-up is to call and ask for the deal or send a follow-up email.
Now, the question is if this is the best that they can do? I think there are a lot more ways for these folks to improve their sales process. For example, some ideas that they could try out are as below:

  1. Prospecting:
    1. Referrals: How many times do these sales people tap into the existing database of satisfied customers for more sales or references? The only reference customers they get are the one’s that are being referred to them. I have not seen any sales person actually seek out references from existing 
      1. I know one builder who has used this way very interestingly. He urges his customers in a project to decide whom they want as their neighbors as they will be stuck with them for a long time and you do not want to have a bad neighbor. This is an emotional connect to the customers to try and get their friends/relatives to buy in the same property. So far he has been successful in selling his projects using this approach.
    1. Corporate tie-ups: Employers are always eager to find ways to improve employee retention and do not always have budget for monetary incentives. In this situation, a builder can sign an MoU with such employers to offer limited period, highly negotiated prices for their employees. This can be a win-win-win situation for all involved:
      1. there are employees who are considering to buy a home, they will be tempted to consider the property offered by this builder as they get a good 
      2. The employer can showcase that they value their employees and want to look after them by offering great 
      3. The builder gets high quality leads from one single organization which is easy to manage and can build a base for them to start a referral drive from these leads.
  1. Qualification:
There are a lot more criteria than the budget, location and type of projects, that can help a salesman close a lead. Some of questions that the sales folks could ask are: 
      1. Liquidity: How liquid is the prospect?
      2. Need: This their first property or is this an investment?
      3. Cash flow: How does the prospect see his cash flow change over the next few years? Is there a promotion, salary hike or big cash inflow likely?
      4. Family members: How big is the family? Is this a joint family? Are there elderly people in the family? How many kids do they have? How big are they?
      5. Tertiary needs: What are their religious beliefs (Certain beliefs require that you stay close to their place of worship)? What other cultural beliefs do they have?
  1. Closure:
The answers to all these questions can provide enough information for the sales team to identify the most important decision factors for the prospect and hence can use this to highlight the right aspects of the property to the prospect which fulfills his decision factors.

I believe this will help in closing more deals and help home buyers in getting the best homes that their money could buy.