The first three questions we ask our customers
It is no coincidence that when we start a relationship with our customers, we always ask them the same questions. The answers to these questions already give us a clear indication of some of the issues we should address during our relationship.
Every customer is different. Every client has a different need. Each client has to face her respective problem with her own approach. These are concepts that we have very much internalized within ST strategy, which is why we talk about our strategy process as if it were a process of craftsmanship, because each strategic plan is different from the previous one and each small detail and nuance of a company can have a relevant impact in the coming years.
When we prepare internally for the kick-off meeting, we make a list of the different aspects of the company that we consider important to be able to do our job with solvency. Evidently, during the same meeting, new questions may arise and new answers are sought in order to fit together the different pieces of the “puzzle” that the company represents for us.
With all this, there are three questions we always ask every client at the beginning of the first meeting, and today we want to share them with you.
The three questions
The questions are taken from the book “The Brand gap” by Marty Neumeier and are as follows:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why are you important?
From the origin of the book, you may have guessed that the questions are very focused on the company’s branding. They are very important as a whole because they quickly give us to understand to what extent the company’s partners have stopped to think about their main sales arguments or if they are simply motivated by a motivation without any other type of incentive behind it.
As our clients have told us (and we quote): “You ask us questions that seem very trivial, but which are proving difficult to answer. We have never really thought about these questions before.
So, we like to start the first meetings thinking about the answers to questions that should have been answered at the beginning of any business and that, as we shape them during the process, we are also shaping what should be the path to choose for the company.
The questions are organized in such a way that each one is more difficult to answer than the previous one.
Who are you?
The purpose of this question is to find out if the company is able to define itself quickly. If the customer has a clear and fluent answer (we are not going to consider now whether the words are the most suitable), it means that the sales pitch has probably been worked on at some point. Only those who have had to present their company several times have modulated a quick speech that serves to identify the need they meet.
This same question can also be used to analyze the company’s purpose. As we have commented in this blog before, the purpose should mark the company’s future decisions and, at the same time, it is a very powerful identification point. If it is used and verbalized in the response, it is a sign that the company has a “reason for existence” beyond making money. And this is very positive, since the sales argument gains a lot of strength. For this reason, if we see that the company has not devoted enough time to it, we write it down so that we can work on it in the future.
What do you do?
In this case, we use this question to better understand the potential of the products and/or services offered by the company. Here we analyze the response to see if the customer verbalizes value propositions, needs or simply characteristics of what is offered to the consumer. It is important to see if value propositions and needs have been identified to which solutions can be found or if, on the contrary, there are products that we are trying to match with potential customers in some way. In short, then, we continue to analyze the potential of the sales pitch and also the clarity that exists among customers.
It is not surprising to see disparity of opinions in this response among those attending the meeting, or to see how what they verbalize does not exactly match what they publish on a website or promotional material. Therefore, it is also useful to observe the level of internal communication and to see to what extent important aspects such as the company’s products and/or services have been worked on together. You can test by going to your company to different people who occupy the same position and ask them what their role within the company should do. You are sure to find surprises.
Why are you important?
This question clearly seeks to differentiate you from the competition. What differentiates you from the rest? Why should the customer choose you? What makes you unique in the market? Do you have a clear product innovation? Once again, if there is no clear answer to this question, it means that the sales argument has room for improvement and that, most likely, the company has always mimicked the strategy and market trends. It is therefore possible that the company does not have well-developed strengths in the event of problems and may have difficulty surviving if its sector is disrupted.
Apart from the aforementioned problem, this question helps us to assess the company’s level of divergence from the competition and, above all, to discover important values that must be communicated to the end customer.
A very important point to bear in mind when asking this question is that the answers must be demonstrable and of value. You cannot make statements such as “we are important because of our quality”. Prove it. You can’t say “because we have the best workers”. Prove it. It is time to be tough and look for really valid arguments to be differentiating when explaining them outside the company, and for this, evidence is needed.
As we have mentioned, each question is usually more difficult to answer than the previous one and, when we get to this third one, we may already see faces of doubt in our customers. Even of concern in some cases. The important thing is to detect the problems in order to make a good analysis and, in the strategic plan, we work on, to describe in detail the steps to follow to solve them.
Why always these questions?
The main reasons for the death of a company are due to poor financial management or because there is no entry of new customers. The financial management will be checked at another point in the process, but we believe it is convenient with the first questions to begin to bring to light whether the company may have a serious problem in its sales process or if, on the contrary, it is well solved. At the same time, these seemingly simple questions, but which can be so difficult to answer, quickly demonstrate to the client the work that lies ahead and the commitment they need to have in the process that we are starting together for the future of their company.
We invite you to ask these questions within your organizations and see if you have these aspects worked on. We also invite you to share them with colleagues in your company to see if the answers are really aligned. On the other hand, if you have very clear answers, we challenge you to ask yourselves if there could be a better answer or if you need to look for new arguments that fit or better define the message you want to convey. For our part, we will continue to use these questions as input for every client to make a first contact with the tasks that the strategic plan will have to work on.