- On November 19, 2012
In Country Three I had another completely different customer experience. While visiting one of the villages, I passed by a large blanket spread out near a tree with hand-woven jewelry and baskets displayed on top. Several of the women who craft these items are sitting near the blanket weaving from a stack of dry reeds. I pick up one of the baskets to examine the workmanship. One of the women stops her activity and comes beside me to describe the different plants that are used to make the dyes which color the strands of the basket. She brings me over to her neighbor so I can observe the exactness of weaving that make the baskets strong and durable. I see them shaping a basket similar to the one I hold in my hand. Other women are working on bracelets, weaving an intricate pattern of red, blue, and brown wedges into each circle. There was no splashy sales pitch and no false intimacy. In a quiet professional way, the weavers enriched my knowledge of the product, creating a desire to have something direct from the craftsman. The price they quote is very fair and I purchase two bracelets and a basket.
These three radically different customer experiences reinforced what selling is all about— meeting (and sometimes creating) the customers need. As I examine my own buying practices, having an emotional connection to the product or what it represents, and trusting the authenticity of the relationship between myself, the seller, and the product are two ‘tipping points’ for me when I am considering a purchase decision.
- I bought the wooden bowl in Country Two because Joseph was interested in finding out about me and I become emotionally connected to his story about his grandfather (whether it was true or not).
- I purchased the basket in Country Three because I saw the attention to detail and quality the women put into the product, which created a need I hadn’t recognized before and I trusted that what I was buying was authentic and fair.
While we are traveling in east Africa, I’m also catching up on past issues of Harvard Business Review…no joke, I had many hours of riding through flat scrub and dessert to keep myself entertained…and an article in the July-August 2012 issue (The Secret to Smarter Sales) highlights my recent buying experiences. In The End of Solution Sales, authors Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Nicholas Toman propose a new strategy for sales, moving from a ‘solution-based’ approach to an ‘insight selling’ approach. The solution-based approach has long been an effective model, where the seller asks questions of the customer to determine the ‘hook’ for their product that will address the customer’s need. Joseph clearly did that by asking me questions and making a case for how his product (carved wood items) would meet my need to have a souvenir of the country.
In an ‘insight selling’ approach the seller coaches the customer to identify and meet an unrecognized need. Not to over-extend the analogy, but until the weaving woman explained the process for how they make the baskets, I didn’t know that I really wanted to purchase a piece of such fine craftsmanship.
Both methods resulted in my purchasing the seller’s products. For me, the insight-selling approach creates a stronger tie between the customer and the product and leaves less room for ‘buyer’s remorse.’ Rather than fitting an existing solution to the buyer’s articulated need, insight selling collaboratively guides the customer towards identifying an unrecognized need, creating a higher level of ownership on the customer’s part. It may require more effort on the seller’s part to creatively adapt to meet whatever needs arise. For me as a customer, this is generally a more satisfactory and fulfilling customer experience. When I employ this as a seller, I am more confident that the answer we’ve developed is unique and specific to their needs and is the result of a joint partnership of discovery, creating stronger bonds of trust going forward.