The market is made up of different customers looking for sellers who can fulfil their specific needs. Sellers too are looking for customers they can service, profitably. The marketplace is noisy, confusing and rife with mixed signals.

Deciphering these signals can help place your customer relationship in the right place. One of the most common sources of signals that can confuse you about the relationship is how customers view your product and their reactions to it.

For chefs, their choice of knives is personal. They use one set, from top companies like Takahara, Misono, Wusthof and other exotically-named brands. Chefs consider these knives to be an extension of their hands. They don’t let anyone else use them. When they leave a kitchen, the knives go with them. For a chef, the knife is strategic.

For an amateur cook like me, a knife is a knife. Some of the knives I use are in the picture. While I do appreciate these brands and can understand a chef’s attention to them, I can never bring myself to view them as more than mere tools. For me, the knife is not strategic. As a writer and a consultant, my personal computer and my laptop are strategic to me.

As a seller, you could be stocking both kinds of knives – the ordinary range and the top-end brands. If, however, you (or your sales folks) are used to selling ordinary knives to amateur (and bad) cooks like me, you will be hard-pressed to respond to a professional chef dropping into your store. On the other hand, if you are used to selling to professional chefs, your suggestions would only leave me confused, and that is not the state I want to be in when I am deciding to buy.

Sellers can and do confuse these two classes of customers, who are looking at the same kind of product or service, but at two different sets of price point and service quality. The first class of customers looks at the product as a means to getting something done, that is not terribly important.

For the other class of customers, the product or service is a critical and irreplaceable part of their business. The product or the service you sell and provide should make sense to the customers in these two very different classes. Else, you risk underselling to the customer who depends on the product, or overselling to the person who does not view your product or service as something indispensable.

Note: This article was originally posted on LinkedIn

Ramesh Dorairaj

Ramesh Dorairaj is consultant, coach and an author. He has 27+ Years of Experience consulting for Fortune 500 companies worldwide. He has groomed 50+ leaders. Has participated in 2.5 Billion $ worth of successful deals.  He is a Certified Executive Coach at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, Certified Sales Coach and a Certified Proposal Coach.

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