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From Management’s Point of View ~ Define the Requirements; Practical Application ~

June16, 2023

After posting last month’s Defining Requirements, there was some feedback that sounded like this: “We realized the importance of the steps from compiling the main points of the requirement through to the end results, but how would we actually put those into practice in the workplace?” This time, then, I would like to make a note of some helpful comments related by one of our staff members at a recent Beer Bash.

Her story dates from when she was working as a salesperson for some carrier’s smartphones at a big-box electronics and appliance retailer. She felt then that the most important thing in selling from her lineup was that the customer should purchase a smartphone that they could see the value of, and that they were happy with. If it was just about smartphones, there were many other agents from the various carriers standing ready to sign up customers. There was a big battle among the carriers to sign up more contracts and sell more handsets, stealing each other’s customers back and forth. And so, she thought about why customers would buy from her specifically.

Even assuming that the seller had a strong lineup of products, there would be no way to start the sales process unless there was a chance to actually talk to the customer. So, she started by creating an environment where it would be easy to start a conversation. When she noticed a customer looking at smartphones, she would silently but carefully observe them. Then, when someone started looking around as if they needed help, she would more proactively approach them, seeking the opportunity to establish contact. At that point, when she was able to get a conversation going, she would pay close attention to the following key points.

1. Understand “why” they needed a smartphone in the first place

In a similar situation, most of us tend to explain things from our own perspective and values, such as “the large number of features” or “the high-resolution screen,” trying to get the customer to understand that. Instead, the idea is to dig deeper so as to find out “why” the customer needs a smartphone, making that understanding the starting point. Reasons for requiring a smartphone vary somewhat depending on age, profession, lifestyle, etc., so by considering these factors, she was able to narrow down the range of handsets that would be suitable for a particular customer.

2. Verbalize “what” they want to do with the smartphone

For customers who are not yet used to using smartphones, they may not be able to explain clearly what it is that want to accomplish by having one. In such cases, the seller has to pick out key words and phrases from the conversation with the prospective customer, imagining what they are thinking, and helping them put their thoughts into words. Then the customer can judge whether or not that is correct, gaining a better personal understanding of what they actually want to do with the smartphone, thus allowing a shared recognition with the seller.

3. Clarify what is and is not possible, and recommend the best course of action

Performance metrics such as operating speed and screen resolution vary with the price of any given smartphone. One needs to know, then, the features associated with the various available handsets, keeping in mind the customer’s budget and clearly communicating what is and isn’t possible, so as to be able to recommend the best option. What is essential at that point is to have them envision themselves using the recommended item. The maximum effort should be made to create a concrete image for the customer of how it will be for them when they have their new smartphone, thus transforming their fear into peace of mind. For someone who loves photos, the wonderfully fine pictures that the camera function will allow them to take; for the customer who enjoys playing games, how much less stressful it will be when gaming on this high-performance device; or for an older person, how they will use the sensor capabilities to monitor their health on a daily basis. If the prospective customer can maintain that image, and if they agree with the pricing, they will be moving towards the purchase.

4. Have the customer believe, post-purchase, that they made the best choice

Everyone has had an experience where something they bought turned out to be different from the way they had imagined it. Even though you spent a lot of money, it turned out to be the same old capability as you had before, or worst case, you had to buy something else to replace the thing you just bought. To prevent that, it’s important for the customer to believe that they made the best possible choice. That means the seller cannot simply leave things be after the sale; they need to go over with the customer how to use the features, or perhaps enroll them in a class, providing to the greatest extent possible from the customer’s perspective whatever services are needed. This will help ensure, after the sale, the customer’s satisfaction as well as confidence in their purchase.

Hopefully, this was a useful illustration. Even selling a single smartphone, effort is needed to stand in the customer’s shoes, understand why they need the product, obtain shared recognition of what they want to accomplish, clarify what is possible and what is not, help them visualize the image of them using the smartphone, and, subsequent to the sale, have them feel that they did the right thing by buying. Projecting this onto our everyday business, it starts with the company representative recognizing what kind of requirement is at hand, thinking about the foregoing progression of steps, seeing clearly what needs to be done, and thus being able to offer the client the services that they really need.

Furthermore, as you, the reader, may have suspected, our former smartphone salesperson noted that there is one more requirement beyond “having the customer purchase a smartphone and staying happy with it.” That would be having them buy their smartphone from our company and not some other company, thereby contributing to sales. When our twenty-something-year-old salesperson thought hard about the question of “why her customers would buy from her specifically,” the answer she came up with was, “creating an aura that it was easy for customers to approach” The less effective a salesperson is, the more they think about things ordered from their own standpoint: my sales -> my company’s sales -> customer satisfaction. In actuality, however, what should be important is: the customer -> my company -> my standing, with one’s thinking centered on “what is it that I can contribute?” The reason for this is that customers are the ultimate decision-makers, and unless they are satisfied, then long-term success is impossible.

The defining of requirements is part of our company’s “TOPC Axis” orientation, and our staff has a shared understanding of the benefits associated with implementation. The most competent people, regardless of their sector or industry, and in whatever organization they may be part of, are capable of following those steps and taking action based on self-reflection. I am happy and proud to have an employee like her in our company.


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