Making Money in business is simple when you know this principle

Making Money in business is simple when you know this principle!

A bold statement like that requires an equally bold answer; and no doubt that you’re probably thinking “OK, this better be special!”. Well, the truth is very simple and with over twenty years of experience in business and business coaching, I can confidently give you this ‘golden key’.

Every good business succeeds because of one key fact; they genuinely want to help their customer. I’m not talking simply about giving good customer service (although that’s essential), I’m talking about actually really caring about the needs and expectations of their customers.

A good friend who I used to work with in Sales had a favourite expression; “Give em what they want!”. Although this phrase was often thrown around the office in fun, the truth was that he was totally on the button (thanks Robbo ;-). If you want to succeed in sales, or in business in general, then you need to put the customer first.

This can be approached in a number of simple ways. First you need to be prepared to take the self-check I’m about to give you but before this I’m going to prove I’m right. I want to invite you to ask yourself a question and listen very carefully to the immediate response that you feel.

Don’t attempt to spook the test by trying to out-think the question. And don’t simply answer in the way you think you are supposed to. Ready, here goes…

“Can you, in all honesty, say that in every case (or even the majority of cases) you have really put the customer’s wants and needs first?”

I’m very confident that you’ve not been able to answer that in the affirmative. You may well believe that on the whole you’re a good business, that you’re ethical and honest. You may even feel that you do have a solid reputation when it comes to customer service but can you, hand on heart, say that you’ve always put the customer’s needs before your own?

Now you may be thinking that this question is way too simplistic. Of course a good business thinks about their customers and should always put them first but how many do?

Let’s turn the tables for a second. Now I want to invite you to consider your recent experiences as a customer, not the vendor. How many times over the past week, or past month, have you felt that the business you purchased from really put your needs first? How many times did you get frustrated waiting for someone to open an extra till aisle? How many times did you get fed up with ‘pressing 3 to speak to someone who mildly cares?’…?! How many times did you wish it was easier to do business with the person or organisation you were spending your money with?

Perhaps I am indeed turning into a grumpy old man but all too often I find it hard work to give people my money in exchange for what I simply want. Why?

A business mentor of mine many years ago asked this very good question: why are we only aiming for customer satisfaction, why not customer excellence? After all, satisfaction should be the bare minimum standard that every business should meet.

I hope my point is starting to get through. If you want to know how to make money then focus on what it means to be a customer of your own business. Put yourself in their shoes. I’m not so naïve as to suggest that you are always going to get it right. And I don’t actually believe that ‘the customer is always right’, as we all know, some customers are just plain awkward for the sake of it.

Think about the companies or brands that are the most successful. Many would fall down on my test because we know that they actually give pretty poor service and succeed because of scale or monopoly. However think of the brands that we love. These tend to be businesses that always put the customer at the centre of the experience.

So here’s that Self-Test (if you want to take this seriously, be honest here!):

1)      Do you currently make it easy for people to do business with you? Are you willing to be more flexible in the way you sell, offer, deliver or supply what you have or sell?

2)      Do you currently make it easy for people to actually give you their money? Are you willing to facilitate other ways for them to be able to pay?

3)      Do you currently follow up on a customer experience and actually ask them if it was what they expected, better or worse? Have you asked them what the one thing is that you could be doing better to meet their needs?

4)      Do you currently rate your performance against your competition in terms of measuring your own customers service standards? How would you know if you’re the best in your industry (with the happiest customers), or somewhere down the list of consumer choices?

Once you’ve let that sink in I’m really hoping that you can now see what I’ve been talking about. Being good in business isn’t always about having the best product or selling at the best prices. Customers want value. And this includes the value derived from the whole experience they have. If they feel cared for and believe that they’ve been treated with honest, respect and professional integrity then they are far more likely to come back, and recommend others to you.

There is one last thought worth sharing; you could of course be thinking that my suggestions sounds a lot like doing everything for the customer at the risk of making a decent (honest) profit. Not at all. Giving your services and products away at a price that isn’t viable for you isn’t good for the customer either and certainly is no basis for a business model. One good friend of mine (in financial services) promotes himself on the basis of charging the right fee. He wants to be around for his customers in years to come. You could say that he’s reassuringly expensive!

So the lesson I’m trying to offer here is a simple and yet profound one. It takes courage. Courage to admit that perhaps you could be better. Courage to accept that you can changes things and make it better for the customer and finally, courage to accept that you don’t need to be average like the other businesses, after all, someone has to sit at the top, right?

My prescription: If you’re serious about making a profound and almost instant change in your business results, then decide today to take positive steps to focus on the customer first. Be aware of your commercial needs and certainly don’t become the servant of ungrateful customers. Talk with your colleagues about the idea, infect your team with the idea and above all be honest with your customers and ask them “what could we do better to serve your wants and needs?”.

Nial Adams

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