A skilled company is good at anticipation. It knows when to invest its time and energy in something, when a conservative approach is important and how to identify relevant burgeoning trends. While all of those are great qualities to have, they’re focused on the marketplace in general. The best companies have the same level of anticipation when it comes to their prospects.
You can’t be psychic, but with the help of proper engagement and analytics, you can get pretty close to it. All it takes is listening, watching and learning to gain actionable insights into your prospects’ behavior and preferences. That may sound easier said than done, so here are two key ways that your company can become a mind-reader of sorts.
1. Listen to your prospects
Keep your ear to the ground and you’ll be able to know what’s coming up the road. Getting good feedback isn’t as simple as handing out customer surveys. It takes active listening where you’re gathering all of the thoughts and feelings prospects have, good and bad.
While you never want to receive complaints, they do provide honest, direct feedback. A complaint may not always be a revolutionary finding, but it will give you much-needed course corrections. Furthermore, it tells you what to avoid in the future with returning and new prospects.
Beyond that, scour social media for mentions of your company. It’s eavesdropping without being creepy—conversations about you, but not involving you directly, can tell you a lot about what you’re doing right and what you need to improve. How are prospects talking to their coworkers, peers, the public, friends and family about the work you do and the service you provide? What about you gets them excited to share their experience with others, and what do you lack that drives them to vent via online platforms?
After listening, you can then draw conclusions about what concerns and needs future prospects will have as well. Accentuate and recreate those positive factors in your efforts while eliminating recurrences of past problems, and you’ll seem to have anticipated new customers’ needs.
2. Learn from data
Listening goes a long way toward gleaning predictive insights while making prospects appreciate you more, but listening can only tell you so much. Even the most candid user comments might not spell out what prospects are thinking of buying next or when they will do so.
Gathering data from social, mobile, online and local customer behavior gives you a foundation to build highly-personalized prospect offers and a tailored experience. Prospects want relevance from a company’s offers. Irrelevant correspondence erodes a prospect’s trust in you and can come across as superficial salesmanship.
Use a prospect’s contract history and the context of those contracts to determine how often you ought to reach out to them. Do they tend to throw together RFPs in a rush, or do they seem to carefully plan their spend? This information also reveals relevant supplementary products/services that you can offer them. But beyond that, it offers you a chance to plan along with them. If you were in their shoes, what could possibly go wrong, and what solutions might you need in the near future or long run? You know your own products and services better than anyone, so you’ll know best when to suggest an upgrade or complementary product when you pay attention to purchasing circumstances.
By equally honing your human (listening) and analytical (data gathering) skills, you’ll get to know your prospects on a deeper level and learn about their motivations and concerns well before they are even looking for a supplier/vendor. Just like a highly-skilled server at a restaurant, you can anticipate their needs and let them enjoy the final product.