It was back in 2001 when this first properly dawned on me, I remember the moment well. I was watching a videotape of a rather zany American man called Marlon Sanders. The video footage had been recorded during a rather expensive Internet Marketing seminar at the Wembley conference centre in London. During his lively performance, Marlon Sanders explained the importance of making sure that every product solved a problem, and why it was important to think of the marketplace way before you ever came up with a product idea. It was part of what he called his “Amazing Formula!”
I fully agree with him. All successful selling activity is creative problem solving. By this I mean that all good product developers and salesman find out exactly what problems their customers are experiencing, then propose a cost effective solution to resolve it. Therefore, if you are trying to think of new product ideas to increase your current range, the first and best place to start looking for inspiration is with your customers.
Find out what their gripes are and where their difficulties lie. Exactly what problems they are already facing. Ask everybody that buys products from you, or pays for your services exactly what challenges they face. This will enable you to define a new product, or improve your existing services. Keep detailed records of customer complaints (other than those which are merely logistics related). These complaints could well indicate a new area of opportunity, towards which your business could move.
Likewise, should you ever be asked for a refund for one of your products, (which is likely to happen sooner or later if you offer a guarantee), try asking your customer the following three questions.
- What happened?
- What should have happened?
- How can I put it right?
If you have the answers to these three questions – supplied to you straight from the horse’s mouth, then you have the opportunity to fix whatever has gone wrong with a particular product either right away or at some point in the future. This type of action will create an additional insight into how you can create new products, and fix problems within your existing product range, thus reducing refunds and maximising your profit.
The basic idea’s of understanding customers’ problems and finding creative solutions is at the heart of effective selling. These fundamentals lead to satisfied clients, and consequently, those all-important increased profits.