Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Do you know your customers? Part 1

Guest post by Samuel G. Njenga

“If you want to sell to everybody, you'll most likely sell to no-one”

Simply put, you need to have a target group for your customers as opposed to attempting to sell to everyone even those who may not need your product or service. You can imagine attempting to sell a plot to a man who does not know where his next meal will come from. Of course the man would not mind owning a plot, but that would be the last thing in his mind at that point in time. The same man may afford one a year or two later.

In real estate we meet all manner of customers and with a bit of experience one can tell a serious one from a joker. Interestingly, a serious customer for a plot or house actually pushes you as the vendor to seal the deal. Consider like the purchase of a house; the purchaser takes their sweet time before a decision is made. They go through a long decision corridor and they can only do the actual purchase upon reaching the end of the decision corridor. The decision corridor may involve viewing so many properties and gathering lots of info before a final decision is made. Woe unto you the seller if you meet a client who has just joined the corridor.

My good partner Paul someday gave me a funny analogy in reference to some customers. When we were younger and chasing girls, you could meet a girl whom you like and for all intents and purposes you’d target to chase. Her strategy is to give you lots of hopes so that you continue with the chase. Obviously she is thrilled by the chase while you are eyeing something else. Soon you realize that the chase will never end coz she is good at ducking you. At some point you give up and set your target on another one. Much later and maybe due to loneliness, the first girl comes back to you and this time round she is there for your taking. Some customers will take you round and round until you give up. They may go out there and do lots of comparisons of products for a long time but by the time they show up the second time, they just buy without much ado.

When I was selling my very first plots off the eastern bypass, I met a gentleman called George. George was the most fearful customer I ever met. He was so afraid of losing money and I was even wondering how he’ll ever buy a plot. I obviously noted so and advised him to go carry out some due diligence on the plots I was selling because back then I had no previous sales for him to refer to. That time we were selling each plot at 300k. He must have gone round and round looking for alternatives for quite a long time. When he came back to me one year later, he was so frustrated out there to an extent that he just wanted to buy and close that matter. I sold him a plot which was less primer than the first ones and at 600k…things move that fast. Nowadays the fear in him is gone and he has done much more that you can imagine. Obviously he relates well to that analogy of the girls’ chasing. Notice how frustrating it can get if you keep meeting customers who are taking you round and round and you may end up investing a lot of time and resources on them only to realize that they were never serious.

The best customers I meet are references, what I sometimes refer to as configured customers. And there is another type I refer to as strategic customers whom I make lots of sacrifices to capture. I will talk about those in the next post. And the middle class that has a habit of over-analyzing things to their detriment.

The big lesson today is to stress the importance of understanding your customers; otherwise you could find yourself selling Johnie Walker blue label and Jack Danielles in a zone where they expect KEG. Or opening a coffee house in the interior of Murang'a and an attempt to sell Cappuccinos and Caffe Lattes of this world and them prospective customers might ask you ‘huto ni tunini?’

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