5 Things You Might Not Know About Your Customer

Highlights from a SalesCollider web seminar at MaRS Discover District in Toronto. 


This past week, I had the opportunity to share some screen-time with the entrepreneurs at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.  I talked about startup founders digging in and asking the questions that lead to a true understanding of who the buyers are.

Because so many founders are terrified of sales, it can feel like trying to fly a rocket ship without knowing how.  If learning about your customer is your highest priority, though, you'll be surprised at how easy that rocket ship is to fly.  

Here are a few things that most startup founders don't know about their customers.  Understanding these things will help you get to know the people that buy from you and build a process for finding others like them.


Their Buying Process Is Probably Much More Complex Than You Think

It is possible that you have your sales process all wrong.  After all, if it doesn’t line up with the way your buyer makes a purchase, your sales process isn’t going to take you very far.  

You’ll want to get as much information about your customer’s buying process as possible.  If you can find out how much due diligence they’re up to, how many people are involved in the deal, and if they’re doing an RFP (just to name a few things), you’ll be much better off.  There is sure to be similarities in the buying processes of your target customers, so honing in and wrapping your head around what that looks like will help you to build your sales process around it.  


There May Be People Involved in the Deal That You'll Never Meet

Unless they have an extremely transactional process, most companies are going to make purchases as a group.  Knowing who those people are (and when in the buying process they show up) will help you to recognize the patterns that emerge in each of your deals.  

When I was selling software to large hotel chains, for example, I noticed that the in-house legal department was always involved in the deal.  This was helpful to know, as it told me that I needed to hire sales reps who was prepared to stick it out as the legal team did their thing.  If I’d assigned a transactional sales rep to the job, they probably wouldn’t have known what to do.  Filling in the blanks on your org chart will help you to hire a team that can close deals with companies that fit your customer profile.  

Bonus Tip: Know the Owner of Your Upgrade


Imagine getting a big deal done with Christina and then implementation is run by Greg.  If you don't know who his manager is, you don't know who is passing feedback to the buyer.

Imagine getting a big deal done with Christina and then implementation is run by Greg.  If you don't know who his manager is, you don't know who is passing feedback to the buyer.

You might not be thinking about it now, but you’re going to have to renew your contract at some point.  Therefore, the people involved in the renewal are equally as important to your deal as the people involved in the beginning.  

As soon as a company starts using your software, after all, there are going to be a whole bunch of employees using it.  Are any of these employees going to have a say in the decision to renew your product?  In order to make sure that your customer doesn’t drop you when it comes time to renew, make sure that you find out who’s using it and touch base to make sure that they’re happy.


A New Hire or Job Change Could Be the Reason Your Customer Wants to Buy

There are certain events that can take place within a company to make them need your product.  If you can figure out what these events are, you’ll be on your way to acquiring a whole new set of clients.  

I once worked with a hosting software company, for example, where we realized that our best clients had all just recently hired a new CTO.  When the CTO came in, they were looking for new technology to optimize the company’s performance and we were in good shape if we could reach out to that person within the first three months of their job.  

Of course, this didn’t mean that we ignored the rest of the market.  If you can find patterns among your best customers and most interested prospects, though, you may start to recognize the events that get people excited about your product.  


Your Buyer Has Biases (They're Only Human!)

It’s easy to forget that our customers have biases of their own.  While you obviously can’t read their mind, knowing where they’ve worked in the past and what tools they’ve used can help you to understand the preconceptions they might have. 

If you’re selling to a buyer that you know has experience working with Marketo, for example, you know that they have certain ideas about how much marketing software costs and how it should work.  When you go to sell them HubSpot in their new job, then, you can use that information to displace their biases around marketing software.  

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the bias will be against you, either.  If they had a horrible experience with the last tool they used, they may already be looking for a better option.  They're assuming that there has to be a better option out there, and that’s a great time to reel them in.  


They Also Have Their Own Goals and KPIs

Remember, you’re buyer has certain goals aside from just buying one piece of software to solve one specific problem.  They have other KPIs, too.  If you’ve ever worked at a large company, you know that there are multiple KPIs that each team is trying to hit at any one time.  

The more that you understand the goals of your target customers, the easier its going to be to shape a pitch.  Ask your client what their KPIs are.  Ask them why they were brought into their role and what they’re trying to accomplish.  Even more, look to see if they are hiring new employees and ask what their intention is with building up a certain team.  


Closing Thought

Whether you know them or not, there’s someone out there talking with their manager about buying your software (or software like yours).  Knowing exactly what they’re worried about and how your product can make their lives a little easier will only help you to get in the door and start closing deals.  

Ryan Williams