It has been said that the best way to discover what you are selling is to ask your customers because they certainly know. This may seem a little strange but when we dig a little deeper, we often find that our view of our offerings differ widely from that of the market.
The problem is that we know our products or services so well that they become second nature whereas the customers only know them on an occasional basis, and then in a generally more perfunctory way.
I had a large accountancy firm as a client and they were continually banging on about the need for cross selling. There were many audit clients, for example, who went to other firms for other services which irritated my client enormously. So what did they do about it? Very little except complain, mainly because there were different departments involved and hence some entrenched thinking and certainly some vested interests.
Research in the past has shown that it takes around seven times the effort to generate a new customer and build them to the level of existing customers. Similarly, that four box matrix beloved of consultants, the Ansoff Matrix, says that he best way to build a business is to sell more existing products to existing customers. Pretty obvious, of course, and the next best approach is to offer new products or service to your existing market.
The advantage is that you are known and presumably accepted as a supplier but even then it will take four times the effort to make it successful.
Offering your existing products to new markets is more problematic because here you are not known and so you will need to get over that hurdle first before you can start to sell your products. In this case it is said to take up to eight times the effort.
None of this says don't do it - it just emphasises the need to understand that ploughing new furrows needs time and effort to make it successful.
We can become very inward looking with our product range if we are not careful. I once telephoned a potential supplier for some long forgotten technical product and was greeted with "Is it the XR200 you want or would you prefer the XR205?"
Another client once held a suppliers' conference (an excellent idea, by the way) and during his presentation he said that he needed the suppliers to mark the packaging of components with his part number, either as well as or instead of their own. A fair requirement, it must be said.
One supplier stood up and said that he would find that difficult because their computer program wouldn't be able to do it. The client said: "Don't worry, it isn't a problem, another supplier has told me that they will be happy to do it for us".
There ensued the fastest piece of computer programming ever.
The customer knows what we are selling because they buy it and they use it which makes them even more expert in our products than we are. They know how to apply it and we know how to buy it or make it and sell it.
Alright, that is a big generalisation, but the point remains, if you want to know what you are selling, ask your customers - they certainly know.
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