"The difference between a good and a great leader is the ability to think outside the box."

Customer profiling: Knowing your clients' needs before they do

Having a thorough understanding of your customers couldn’t be a more obvious piece of critical information on the path to success. Businesses cling onto it for dear life, and rightfully so. However, it’s just one step toward sales stardom. The real key is to excel at customer profiling: know your clients’ needs and wants before even themselves realize them. Acquiring this intimate knowledge of what your client’s needs will be is crucial to a developing a customer-focused journey that goes beyond the usual limits of the buy-sell transaction and creates a relationship and culture that breeds long-term success. Below, you’ll find an outline on how to make sure it happens.

Uncover needs for your customers

Every businessman worth his/her salt takes pride in the fact that they know everything about their clients and their current needs well before they walk into the first meeting or jump on a call. To take the relationship a step further, focus on what they will need tomorrow. Put yourself in their shoes and try to envision different scenarios and how underlying market fluctuations may have an effect on your clients. The aim is not to make a hard sell on the service or product you use, but rather to get them to know all the awesome things that would become a reality if they had the right tool to address these needs. Here’s the kicker: not all customers are clear about what they need or want.

As someone looking from the outside in, your business has a great vantage point to discover all the pain points your solution can relieve. For instance, if you know why or when they buy, you’ll have a much easier job to match their needs to all the benefits your business can provide, as well as uncover new ones. Another angle revolves around your potential customers who are most likely buying or interested in a similar product or service to yours. Before you can sell to them, you need to know their current solution(s), if they are satisfied with it, and if your solution would bring about any other tangible benefits or perhaps simply better ones than those the client already receives.

“When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.”
– Guy Kawasaki

Using a business intelligence (BI) tool, you can gain critical insights into your clients tech stack. For instance, for your SaaS offering, you can uncover all of the technologies they are using, broken down into various granular information, giving a clear indication of their business focus. This includes overlapping technologies your potential customers are using so you can expand your initial focus to anticipate their needs, while also revealing new verticals and clients to tap into.

That’s when your USPs come into play, as they can be driven by what the customer seeks when deciding on a purchase. Strong sales are based on highlighting the great things your product or service brings to your clients. It’s a simple equation: understand the challenges they’ll face and you’ll know how to offer them solutions. Take a look beyond your core business and gain a sense of your customer’s wide array of choices, as well as the entire landscape. This will not only equip you with a deeper understanding of competitors but also help you better anticipate their moves and react promptly.

Stay ahead of important events

Building a long-lasting client relationship largely depends on predicting the future, and anticipating their moves. It’s a like a game of chess, where you foresee the other’s side reaction in order to counteract effectively. Keeping a close eye on future developments includes having one eye fixed on your customer and the other one on their market. Needs change with every major market fluctuation, as well as every product update, integration, announcement, and so on. Your business needs to be in the know regarding various trends that are going to influence your clients. Being in the loop on past and present changes concerning your potential clients helps you anticipate what they are going to need, so you can jump on the opportunity and offer your solution as soon as they need it.

Stay within the context

It’s more than likely your clients already know that the right product or service at the right time can be invaluable to their business, impact their daily operation, prevent crucial failures, and so on. As great as that sounds and as much as they’d like to hear it, your clients might be exasperated by previous attempts with solutions that promised the exact same thing and then failed to deliver.

Solutions DiversityImage credit: Linkedin

As diverse customer needs continue to increase, having deep customer insights become the highest currency. Market uncertainty and data overflow can confuse your clients, making them less interested in products or service per se than in flexible, adjustable solutions. Clients want to know that whoever is on the other side of the table/phone call/Skype call understands their business operations to a T. Craft your agenda into a tailored approach where you can offer tangible business results. For example, what steps can your clients implement to prevent issues before they rear their ugly head? What does the actionable data indicate? How can your solution help direct them to where effort is most needed? You have a golden opportunity to fill in the gaps, help them think differently about their options, and most importantly - offer them a map of the way forward.

Think like your clients

Sometimes, you simply need to get out of your comfort zone to really understand your clients. The difference between a good and a great leader is the ability to think outside the box. Think about it from the perspective of your own business - what if selling solutions and upgrades transformed into pitching new concepts and visions while closely working with your clients on their growth? It’s possible by using increasingly actionable insights, from detailed demographics and geography to customers’ online makeup, behavior, and operations. These highly targeted and customized offers steer clients to the right solution at the right moment for the right price.

The technology and tools for creating customer-centric sales strategies are increasingly available and expanding, but businesses that wait to exploit them (especially those of the small and medium variety) will witness their customer pool defecting to competitor ranks that react proactively and take the lead instead. Don’t say we didn't warn you.