How Do You Find Out What People Really Want?


Friday, 10.24pm

Sheffield, U.K.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole idea of having goals and going after them.

I was listening to a podcast where the person being interviewed said that the purpose of their company was to help people do something on Instagram intentionally.

Then there’s the news story about Big Brother in the UK – and how the first few seasons of the show were about real people – an authentic portrayal – and then as the series went on it got more and more artificial, with the participants doing what they were expected to do for the camera.

I’m not a big fan of selling. No one really is, I think.

But it’s easy to think that’s what we have to do, that’s how the world works. We have something of value to offer. You have money. And my sales job is to help you exchange your money for my value.

And then I started reading a book about design patterns in user interface design.

It says if you want someone to use a tool you create, then you’re going to have to understand them first.

No one uses a tool because they want to use a tool.

Take a spade, for example. You’ll pick up a spade because you want to get your garden sorted. You want to get your garden sorted so you’ll have somewhere relaxing to sit during the summer with a cool drink.

You’re using the space because you really want to put your feet up and relax.

And this is something we all need to spend some time thinking about.

Let’s say you’re starting a management consultancy that is going to do some clever data analysis.

So, you can crunch data and create pretty pictures and send them to your customer daily.

Is that what she wants? To print off all your charts and cover her walls with them?

Or is she in charge of procurement and is responsible for cutting costs – and she only looks good to her boss if she cuts costs year on year.

So is your analysis going to help her reach that goal of cutting costs or, more importantly, warn her when she’s in danger of actually letting costs go up?

So, going back to the pattern book, we need to put our customers under a microscope.

We need to figure out what their real goals are. What’s their equivalent of cheese that will get them sniffing the air?

We need to think about how they will go about things. Can they make decisions right now? Does everything need to be in a budget first? What route will they take?

How do they talk about what they want? There’s not much point talking about vitreous structures of patent fragility when they think in terms of glass houses.

How familiar are they will what you do? Do you need to spend a lot of time educating them, or will it be obvious how you can help them?

What do they think about what you do? For example, I once called someone who managed a metals warehouse about commodity prices and got a long lecture on how they did nothing with markets and that was only for fancy chaps that drove Ferraris in London.

Even though the warehouse manager was sat on inventory of several million that went up and down in value all the time.

This is why scattergun or spray and pray approaches don’t really work.

You can’t really sell someone. Not for the long term anyway.

They have to make their own minds up about what you offer. The challenge for you is getting in position so they can see you when they’re ready.

It’s all about being discoverable.

And perhaps the best way to do that is to get out there and start talking to people. Not to sell them, but to understand them better.

Then, if they need you, they’ll know where to find you.

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