The Wrong Customer

A friend of mine was 40-years-old and had never been married. When asked why he was still single, he would say “It’s better to want what you don’t have, than to have what you don’t want.”

Let that sink in for a minute. If you think about that statement, it applies to a lot of things – spouses, houses, couches, and certain customers.

Certain customers? Why would a customer be something you don’t want? Well, if you have a customer who is not appropriate for your product because it wasn’t intended for him, the unsuitable customer can cause you a lot of trouble.

What I mean is that all of us know the demographics of the customers that use our product or service and we are aware how our customers use our products or service. Anyone, in any business, should be able to describe one, their core customer and two, how they use their product or service. Based on the demographics, the business trolls, or looks for suitable customers. That is how marketing works.

However, what I have seen over and over is the following situation:  Someone that does not meet the demographics of a “core customer” becomes interested in a product or service, and the salesperson knows that the interested party is not one that usually buys his product. However, the salesperson continues his efforts to sell the unsuitable prospect because he wants to make the sale, right? With what result?

Here is the result – the company has something that they do not want. The company now has a customer that is going to have a bad experience with their product or service. Why? Because the customer should never have bought the product in the first place.

We all know that once someone buys a product or service what matters is the customer’s experience. You want your customers to have good experiences and good performance from your product or service.

However, if the wrong customer buys it, they are going to be disappointed, and they are going to become upset, and they will want to punish someone.  Usually, that is the business that sold them the product or service.

I see these bad transactions take place all the time.

Here are a couple of suggestions to avoid falling into the “have something you don’t want” category. First, when presented with a prospect you need to ask yourself is this my core customer? If not, ask are they an exception or are they going to have a bad experience using my product or service?  Then, if you think they are going to have a bad experience rather than just forge ahead with your fantastic sales presentation, address your concerns and explain to the prospect why they could potentially have a bad experience if they buy your product or service.

Most inappropriate prospects will understand and thank you for helping them to avoid making a wrong decision.  Many times, the individual will go on to say glowing things about you and your company.

However, if a somewhat stubborn, yet still inappropriate, prospect insists on buying you may still have a problem.

Here is an experience that I had in the senior housing industry. A senior visited the brand-new community that we were launching and said that she was interested in moving in. However, she was on a strict vegan diet. I explained to her that the dietary program was pretty much a meat-based program and that even though they had some vegetarian options, it would be almost impossible to eat a strict vegan diet in the community. (I have a thorough understanding of this dietary issue because I have been a vegetarian for many years.) Well, she pressed on and moved into the community even after I cautioned her that she would most likely have a negative experience. A few months after she moved in, she was distraught with the management because they did not offer sufficient vegan options.  The result? She moved out, but not before telling everyone who could listen that the program was flawed.

Not too long after this incident, I had the same thing happen when we launched the next community!  Again, I told the potential resident that she would most likely have a bad experience and even told her of the previous resident’s experience since the food program (the same at both communities) was not vegan-friendly. Well, much like the previous experience, she insisted on moving into the community.  However, as part of the arrangement, I put together a document to outline the food program, explaining that it was not vegan-friendly and had her sign it.

I know that these stories sound crazy, but they happened!  And in business, unfortunately, similar situations happen all the time. Customer suitability and customer experience are linked, and salespeople need to be aware, that it is better to want what you don’t have than to have what you don’t want. You don’t want inappropriate, unhappy customers – they are bad for your business. You want customers who are suitable for your product and sing your praises to everyone. It’s like Warren Buffett says – you want delighted customers because delighted customers are your company’s best advertisement. “Any business that has delighted customers has a salesforce out there,” the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway said.

By the way, my old bachelor friend got married to a lovely woman, and they have been married now for over fifteen years now, and things are going well because he waited for a suitable prospect – good rationale on his part.

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