At a conference I was speaking at, one of the other presenters was talking about customer service. He showed a photo of a storefront he had once seen; it was a small, mom and pop candy store. Taped to the front window was a hand-made sign on which was printed, in large, angry letters:
NO, WE DO NOT SELL ICE CREAM!!!
This conference happened several years ago, and although I don’t recall the name of the other presenter (that’s okay—he probably doesn’t remember me either), I’ll always remember that sign. It’s a classic example of not listening to your customers. This may be an obvious example, but are you making the same mistake?
Clearly, the customers of that candy store had been asking for ice cream—so frequently, in fact, that the owners were now irritated to the point of putting up that sign. What they didn’t hear was what the customers were really saying: “We’d like you to sell ice cream—and if you did, we’d buy it!”
I’d been presenting my signature keynote, The 5 Best Decisions the Beatles Ever Made…and Why You Should Make Them Too!, for over a year before I ultimately wrote my book on the subject. What caused me to write the book? The people in my audiences kept asking me if I had a book, and I finally listened! Over the past couple of years, my clients have been asking me if I offer follow-up or breakout sessions to help attendees take action on the 5 Decisions, so I created a selection of programs to do just that. Turns out my clients are the best Research & Development department my small business could ask for !
If you listen—really listen—to your customers, they’ll tell you what they want you to sell them, and how they want you to sell it to them. If your customers have complaints or objections, they may really be telling you that they’d like you to offer them a solution. Whatever your product or service is, your customers will tell you what they like about it, what they don’t like about it, and what they’d like you to do about it.
You may have read that the Beatles will finally be releasing re-mastered versions of all their CDs in September. Beatle fans—their customers—have been asking for this for years, and the Beatles didn’t respond. Yes, there were legal, technical, and other entanglements, but the bottom line is that for years the Beatles were like that mom and pop candy store: “No, we do not sell re-mastered Beatles CDs!!!” Did the Beatles wait too long? Should they have “struck while the iron is hot”? Did they make a mistake by not listening to their customers soon enough? We’ll find out in September. (I, of course, will buy everything.)
So what are your customers telling you? What products or services are they asking for that you could be providing? Because, after all, wouldn’t it be much, much better to be able to tape up a sign that says:
YES, WE SELL ICE CREAM!!!