Marty Grunder on What Consumers Want

Columns - Industry Voices

Every month, our columnists give their take on a common topic. Last month they predicted what contractors could expect in 2011, and this month, it’s what consumers want.

January 25, 2011
Marty Grunder
Marty Grunder Here’s how you can find out exactly what your clients want. It’s a big secret so don’t tell anyone, OK? The secret is you ASK THEM! I know, pretty simple advice this month.

However, while the process of finding out what a customer wants is very simple, implementing it is tough. I suppose one could consider it easy if you’re committed to improving your business and growing profits. Let’s talk a little about what to ask your clients and how to ask them.

First of all, let’s talk from a macro level. I tell all the landscapers I work with to ask their clients three specific questions. They are as follows: What should we keep doing? What should we start doing? And what should we stop doing? Any time you have a chance to meet with a client, ask them these questions.

Smart landscapers don’t spend the winter sitting around; they use the winter to address all the things the busy growing season doesn’t allow time for. Strategic acts, like meeting with all your top clients and asking them these questions, are smart business practices. Meet with as many clients as you possibly can.

Doing so will show you where you have work to do and you’ll bond with your clients and show them through your actions that you care.

Don’t see the value of meeting with clients? How would you feel if the local truck salesman that you work with came to see you and asked you how they could improve their business? How would you feel if the local restaurant you eat at five times a week invited you to a meeting, served you a free dinner and asked you what they could do better?

I hope you get the point. There is a lot that can be learned from talking to our clients. Asking them what you should keep doing, start doing and stop doing is one of the best ways to find out what they want.

On a micro level, we find out what our clients want by asking them specific questions in our initial meeting. I am amazed at the number of sales professionals that go right into making suggestions and assuming they know what the client wants before asking questions. When you go to the doctor, she doesn’t take a look at you and say, “I know what you’ve got; take this.” That would be irresponsible, right? A doctor sits down with you and asks questions, usually lots of them. Then, and only after many questions, does the doctor prescribe any treatment or diagnosis? Even then, they often do more tests to be sure.

Sales professionals need to spend a lot more time asking questions to ensure they are getting to the root of the problem (pardon the pun) and delivering exactly what the client wants.

Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Get a dialogue going with your clients – ask them what you can do to improve. Go slowly with your prospects and clients. Work to ensure accuracy in the definition of the problem.

Make sure you are delivering exactly what the prospect and client want by asking them. When you find out what the client really wants, you will improve.

Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See; mail