Why Your Customers Lie To You
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In 1985 the Coca Cola Corporation spent gobs on the best marketing research
money could buy, and asked thousands of people their opinion. Armed with
overwhelming statistics, and clear answers from a huge number of people, they
launched New Coke. $4,000,000 down the drain.
$20 a person spent on 200,000 people in focus groups, testing, market
surveys, and the blind taste test. And the results that came back were totally
The same thing will happen if you go asking your customers 'what do you
want?' If you ask them if they prefer to meet on the phone or in person, or how
much they are willing to pay, or what color they want, you'll get the same
answer: the wrong one.
Because they will cheerfully give you their best answers to what they want,
just like the 200,000 did. And when you offer them what they said they wanted,
they will turn their backs on it, leaving you in the dust.
Don't believe me? Ask Coca Cola about the storm of public protest they had to
content with, and the fact that a year later, New Coke had less than 3% of the
Did 200,000 people lie?
Well, no. They didn't.
Each person gave the best answer they could, sipping at different unmarked
cups of a cold cola beverage. But when was the last time you drank a cup of cola
blindfolded, while paid consultants sat around with clipboards, measuring your
Asking questions of your customers is one of the absolute best ways to get
clear guidance for your business. But don't ask them what they want.
Why don't you ask them what they want?
Because you and your customers live in different worlds. You see, you've
already travelled through the problem your business solves. Maybe you aren't yet
enlightened, maybe you still struggle, but you understand the world of the
solution, so to speak.
Your customer, on the other hand, hasn't gotten there yet. That's why they're
coming to you. Asking them questions about what they prefer just doesn't work.
You may ask me if I prefer a wool coat or one of those big, bulky ski
jackets. And, my preference is completely irrelevant if you're taking me up Mt.
Everest. You know what I need, I don't.
So, if your customers have such excellent information and guidance for you,
and yet they won't follow their own advice when you offer it back to them... how
do you get clear, useful answers from them that you can implement in your
The answer requires you to be a little more intimate. It also requires you to
be stronger in the captaincy of your business. How does that work?
What, are you asking me? Read on:
Keys to Questioning Your Customers
Ask about problems, not solutions.
Your business solves a problem. Your customers are very familiar with that
problem. So, ask them about the problem.
They don't know the solution, yet. So, don't ask them what the solution
should look like. Not even what color it should come in. Because whatever
answers they give you, won't apply.
What are they struggling with? Where are they stuck? Where are they
frustrated? What don't they like? What are they trying to accomplish? What would
they like to be different?
These questions are powerful for three reasons: one, it creates an empathetic
connection, because they are able to be heard in the midst of their
frustrations. Two, it creates more empathy in you as well, because you are
reminded of what it was like before you got so good at what you do.
And the third reason: the answers show where your customers have the biggest
pain, struggle, or misfortune. If you have something that will help them with
that, and it works, they'll come get it.
So ask and ask and ask those questions about the problems. Get as much
information as you can. Don't answer, don't fix. Just listen.
O Captain, my Captain.
Armed with clear answers about the struggle, your job is to create and offer
strong solutions that really work.
You are the expert in your business. People are coming to you for care,
guidance, and help. They want to be able to trust you, to lean into your support
and care. So be the captain of your ship, and offer your customers what you know
Here's a prime example: I was getting help from someone around my health, and
I asked them for their recommendation. They said: "It's up to you."
Frustration city! It's not up to me. I don't know what's going to help me. I
want clear guidance. I may or may not take them up on it, but I want to know
what they recommend.
Remember to first ask about the problem and then to take captaincy of the
solution. Do that, and your customers will never lie to you.
The best to you and your business, Mark Silver
About the Author
Mark Silver is the author of
Unveiling the Heart of
Your Business: How Money, Marketing and Sales can Deepen Your Heart, Heal
the World, and Still Add to Your Bottom Line. He has helped hundreds of small
business owners around the globe succeed in business without losing their
hearts. Get three free chapters of the book online:
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