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The dynamics of customer management – 1

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If you are an entrepreneur, wannabe, or you work in the Marketing/Sales department of an organization or have anything to do with people, I would like you to religiously follow the series that I begin today.
Sometime ago on this page, I ran a series with the title “SELL SOMETHING”. In that series, I mentioned the fact that whether he knows it or not, everyone in life is selling something. We are all purveyors of value and therefore in the business of connecting that value to people who need it. The activity that underpins that is simply known as selling. A sale happens when you can connect the value you have with someone else who is willing to part with commensurate value in exchange for the one you are offering. In this broad, albeit generic sense therefore, as long as we produce a value, we are all in one form of business or the other and all have customers, actual or potential.
In the marketplace of life, success is a function of connections. The more you are able to connect, the more successful you will get. This is why in life, it is not the people with the highest IQ that succeed most. More often than not, they are employed by people who are considered less intelligent but who have mastered the art of making appropriate connections.
In the year 1979, as an undergraduate of the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, I vied for the position of the Students’ Union Director of Socials and Culture. I did not have money but was armed with a dream and loads of goodwill. I was very popular and well-liked among the student populace. The campus was then a multi-cultural one and I had friends across the divides, ethnic or religious. It was therefore not difficult to get people to volunteer to be on my campaign team. They were more than happy to do it even at their own expense! I had no money to print colorful handbills and posters. Everything I printed was in one colour and was done for me by a printer in town whose friendship I had cultivated earlier. We produced only less than a hundred posters and only about three hundred handbills as opposed to the thousands of the colorful prints by many of the other contestants. Even at that, my printer underwrote a significant part of the bill! Yet, because of the power of connecting with people, I ran a colorful campaign that became the benchmark for years thereafter. Needless to say, I won the election with a landslide victory!
That experience opened my eyes to a significant lesson about success and the first level of connection that needs to be made if you want to be significantly successful. It is about people connecting with people. This is the beginning of any sustainable sales relationship. Relationship is the platform on which value is delivered. People hardly do significant business with total strangers! Any significant sale begins with a relationship and is sustained by it. Has it occurred to you that the most successful politicians are not necessarily those with the best programs but those who are able to best connect with the electorate? My experience in students’ union politics taught me – and I have seen that lesson reinforced over and over again all over the world – that manifestoes do not necessarily win elections. Connections do! On the speech night when contestants were to address the student body on what they would do if elected, when I was called to the podium, greeted the students, I began my address with a short story. I was not allowed to finish the story before the venue erupted in shouts of “You don win!”. I was carried shoulder-high off the podium! Because I had connected with people, it did not matter if I had a manifesto of programs or not! I was simply the “man of the people”.
The second level of connection essential for success is people connecting with the product or value that you have to offer. This is why anyone who desires to significantly succeed must have a mastery of his value-proposition. Trying to sell a product you have never used or know little or nothing about can be one of the most frustrating experiences that anyone can have in life. When you sit before an interview panel and your prospective employer asks what you intend to contribute to the organization, how well can you pitch yourself and your capacity for contribution? When the family of Joseph in the Bible was to settle in Egypt, the first question that Pharaoh asked them when they stood before him was “What is your occupation?” Simply put, he was asking them what value they were willing to contribute to the nation. Their response made him settle them in Goshen, the most fertile region of the nation, so that they could effectively keep his flock! My interactions with Africans in Diaspora have largely reinforced this position. Those who contribute significantly to the society in which they live usually become significantly successful in a short period of time while those who only go to experience the ‘good life’ spend several years in their host country with little or nothing to show beyond survival.
Every product or service is a code of value. However, having a value that you cannot successfully connect to people will still leave you largely stranded on life’s highway. It is one thing to have a value, coded in a service or a product, but making the people believe it, see it and agree with you that they need it is another issue.
Success in the marketplace is also a function of solutions connecting with problems. In reality, people never spend money on a product or service. They actually buy a solution to their problem. So, stop trying to sell products to people. They are not interested. Tell them what specific problems the product has capacity to solve for them. Once they are convinced, it would not matter what name the product is called! This is what makes it possible for the customer to buy from you with gratitude even if it costs him an arm and a leg. He spends his money and thanks you for letting him, especially if his experience with the product matches the promise it offered! At that point, price is not the primary consideration. The solution to a nagging problem is! When solutions are effectively connected with problems in a way that convinces the customer that he is better off with his money in your hands than in his pocket, he will gladly source and part with the money!.. continued.
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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