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Customer relations, knowledge about customers and service skills concept business background.

Who Are You Really Working For?

Hint: It’s not your boss. Here’s how you can better meet the needs of your real boss—your “customers.”

Who’s your customer?

That’s the one thing you need to know for sure. While meeting professionals may not think of themselves in terms of selling, we all provide some kind of product or service. Instead of customers, you may have clients, participants, attendees, or respondents. Understanding who they are, what they need, and how your product or service meets that need, is the key to being successful. Who are you working for?

Sometimes, your customer is just like you. When I was a junior meeting planner, I presented a menu for one of my first events to my manager. She took one look at the suggestions, took out her pen, and started slashing through items and making edits. When I looked back, I realized that I had picked what I thought attendees wanted to eat, but my manager’s suggestions matched up with what I would have wanted at the gala dinner. As I grew in my role, I came to see the similarities and differences among attendees and how my services could meet those needs. Oftentimes, I could put myself in their shoes and find the best solution.

But don’t assume your customer is always like you. This is especially important when you provide something unique or unusual—or a specialty like technology, where I focus. While something might appeal to you, a more general audience might be turned off. Conversely, don’t automatically rule something out just because you don’t like it. This is when you need to dig a little bit into your customers’ wants and needs—and where your services could match up.

Some questions you can ask yourself to get started:

  1. Who is my customer? This can be simple demographics: age, gender, geography. But try to go deeper: What are their interests? Do they have any shared experiences? Are there particular products that they seem to purchase?
  1. What are their needs? If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, you’ll recall that there are different levels of needs that must be met before your customer can progress to the next level. For example, if your attendee is hungry, tired, or thirsty—their basic physiological needs are not met—they are unlikely to feel inspired by the awesome speaker, which otherwise would meet their psychological needs higher up on the pyramid. Are their needs basic, such as hunger? Or do they wish to be recognized and feel like they belong? Whatever their needs, make sure you meet them where they are.
  1. What services can I provide that will meet their needs? In many cases, professionals start with what they have to offer, and try to find ways to “sell” it to their customers. But our customers know what they need, and they’re trying to find it. Chances are that you’re offering something that meets their needs, and your job is to understand the customer and deliver what they’re after. When you do this well, it’s like magic. So, find the people who need your product, and help them out by showing them how it makes their lives easier.

How have you applied these concepts to your work? Comment below!



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