How This Girl Gave Her Sister a Remarkable Gift
Throughout human history, stories have served as vessels for wisdom. So when I heard this one, I filed it away in my mind knowing it illustrated an important point about life and business.
The client who told me this story has three kids. One of the kids was having a birthday coming up. Her siblings were hard at work trying to figure out what she wanted for her birthday. With all the toys of today, the options are endless.
Her older sister, obviously a future entrepreneur, marketer or pricing specialist, came up with the perfect gift. It was a gift that didn’t cost her anything. It only took her ten minutes or so to make it. It was small enough to fit on a piece of paper, yet lasted an entire year.
Can you guess what the gift was?
The gift was allowing her sister to always "ride shotgun" (travel in the front passenger seat of the car) for an entire year.
Her sister thought it was one of the best gifts she received that birthday.
From my perspective, the girl showed an intuitive understanding of what her sister valued. You might argue it’s easy to know what your family members value. We live with them, after all. But I bet very few brothers or sisters would have the insight and empathy to come up with a gift like this.
Not only that, it’s also a gift that didn’t cost the older sister anything – at least not anything material.
This concept of value is a thought worth paying attention to in our day-to-day work. What is valuable to other people may not necessarily be expensive or even valuable to us. Value is subjective, and we’ll most likely incorrectly estimate the value of things we possess, control or can offer to other people.
This aspect of the story is quite common. Companies that are empathetic discovered opportunities that others miss. As an example of this, I recently heard a story in which a legal firm gave a customer more value by doing less work. The customer simply preferred a phone call over a written memo.
The key to this is of course knowing what your customers value. The only way you can know what your customers value is by listening to them and being honestly interested in them. Which leads us back to the importance of being interested, not interesting.
Asking Genuine Questions
A great way to start a conversation about what people value is to ask genuine questions. Preferably as early as possible. Be prepared to be honest, personal and even vulnerable. I often clearly admit to customers if there’s something they need that I’m not particularly good at. If so, I recommend working with others for those things and I will also point them in the right direction.
I know this goes against a lot of the stuff we’ve been taught about selling and convincing prospects of our expertise – “fake it till you make it” and such. Those ideas never resonated well with me. I always felt more comfortable when I could be my genuine self around people, customers or colleagues. When you have a solid foundation in a relationship and trust is established, things will go much more smoothly.
Questions You Can Ask to Better Understand What Your Clients Value
Starting a conversation about these topics with a customer can be hard. Here are some suggestions for questions you can try to open a genuine conversation:
What do you expect from us?
Which of our company’s offerings is of the highest value to you?
What is your current pain (or what keeps you up at night)? Be careful with this question though and do not ask it unless you've already established trust.
If price were not an issue, what role would you want us to play in your business?
What are the service standards you would like us to provide to you?
What are your fears when it comes to hiring us or a company like ours?
What can we do to address concerns or fears you might have?
Why are you changing supplier? What did you not like about your former supplier that you do not want us to repeat?
How important is rapid response to questions? What do you consider rapid response?
How can we learn more about your business to better support its success?
What will the success of this project look like?
These questions were inspired by ones found in the book “Implementing Value Pricing” by Ronald J. Baker.
This article originally appeared on the old Leancept blog.