The Best Way to Make Customers Listen

How do you make customers listen to you, when you have something you want to tell them? The very best way to make customers listen, is to think about who you serve. Everyone serves someone, and if you’re in business, any business, you serve your customer. Universities serve their students. Corporations serve their customers (even before shareholders, or the shares won’t be worth much). Once you know who you serve, there are four more things to do, to get customers to listen:

  1. Listen to them first. Hear their aspirations, their challenges, and their concerns.
  2. Tell them that you’ve heard them, so they know you are listening.
  3. Back up what you’ve told them with action.
  4. Share the results.

Once they know that you’re willing to put them first, they’ll listen. You won’t need to ask twice.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m a Partner here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their businesses and careers. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – and we’ll also send our weekly post along with some other useful tidbits, direct to your inbox – just click the handy button, below.

Put your problems into perspective

Gum on shoe
This post has been updated since its original publication.
 
Everywhere we turned this week we encountered problems.  That’s not a bad thing, because if there weren’t problems the world wouldn’t need problem solvers like us.

There are, however, a couple of problems with problems; the first is that we often feel compelled to try and solve problems which aren’t ours to solve. The second is that we offer solutions before we really understand what the true nature of the problem.

Two people we respect deeply talked about problems, among other things, this week.

Steve Johnson, a highly experienced Product Management expert, started his article by wondering whether Product Managers should be called Problem Managers in an interview he did with Revulytics. I suggest you read it.

His belief, which we share, is that Product Managers need to focus on the customer problem and not the problems faced by others in the organization.  He also states that you should allow others to develop the solutions. There are many other big brains in the building who can offer solutions that you couldn’t even dream of, but they need you to define the problem to be solved and the outcome the customer is expecting.  Once you do that, step back and go find more problems that your customers need you to address.

“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” Robert Schuller

The second article that reinforced this was from Ash Maurya, one of the sparks for the Lean Startup movement.  First he reminded us that it’s been 10 years since he and Eric Ries started blogging about a better way to look at start-ups. You can read it on Medium

The point which struck me is his focus on developing the right mindset to successfully navigate the Lean Startup process.  Unless you and your team are ready to jump in with both feet, you’ll wind up with some other outcome.  One of those key articles of faith is to Love the Problem and spend quality time with your potential customers to develop a deep understanding of their problems, from their perspective.

Like Steve Johnson, Ash Maurya reminds us that it is vital for us to become Problem Managers in order to develop products and services which customers will adopt.

When you are ready to take the leap and become a Problem Manager, PANOPTIKA is here to lend a hand.

I’m Steve Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.

4 Ways to Find Your Focus

Target with arrows
 
Entrepreneurs and salespeople love opportunities. (Us included). We love hitting targets, self-imposed or otherwise. We’re always looking around, discovering new ways to do things, meeting people, and creating solutions. 

What’s wrong with that? It’s that it can make us unfocused. If you want to hit a target, you need to take aim. But where, when there are so many choices? Also, what if you’ve got a whole gallery of people giving you advice or direction? The customer wants one thing. Your boss wants another. Your colleagues have (in their mind, at least) a better idea. Your quota says you want something different. So if you’ve got a whole line of targets in front of you, how do you focus? Shouldn’t you seize every opportunity? When it comes to choosing which product to work on, or which new customer, focus is where the magic happens. Otherwise, when you let loose that arrow (your effort), there’s a chance it won’t hit any of the targets, and will just sail on by. Or that your effort won’t be sufficiently powerful to even get you to the targets in the first place.

Here are five time-tested methods for improving your focus, whether it’s on a finishing one of your projects, getting a new customer, or choosing which idea to develop. Start by making a list of all the things you could focus on to achieve your goal. Then do any one of these (all five are useful, but if you’ve read this far and you want to improve your focus, you might as well start practicing). 

  1. Play “optometrist”. Take that  all the things you could focus on, and then, two at a time, ask yourself which would be better to drop, until only one remains. 
  2. Go for early wins. Assign a probability score and work on the one that you are most likely to “hit” first. 
  3. Use the grab-bag approach. Put each individual target on a piece of paper, and draw one out of a bag. Commit to working on that one until you have a result. Your odds are as good this way, as trying to do them all, badly.
  4. Go big or go home. Identify the target that has the biggest upside, and put all your focus there. 

Now that you’ve found your focus, I’ll share a little secret. No one can focus 100% on anything. But follow the Pareto Principle, and you can get there. Find those 20% of your targets that will give you 80% of what you want, and give them 80% of your effort. Then you can feel free to give the other 20% of your time and resources to the remainder, in good conscience. 

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.