If We’re All in Sales – Who is YOUR Customer?

Posted on May 12, 2010


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– Who is your customer?

One of the most important things I learned from taking the Dale Carnegie course was this:

We are ALL in sales.

The point of this mantra was that EVERY interaction provides an opportunity.  An opportunity to make a connection.  An opportunity to learn something.  An opportunity to share yourself.  An opportunity to spread your ideas.  An opportunity to expand your influence.  When you look at every interaction as an opportunity, you start treating those interactions differently than you might treat them in the normal course of things.  In the normal course of things, you might tend to think of interactions as EITHER (1) something that helps me get current project X accomplished OR (2) something that doesn’t help me get current project X accomplished (i.e., a disruption, a distraction or an obstacle).  What Dale Carnegie showed me was that there was a wonderful third option, an option where meeting someone having nothing to do with my current projects and my current life could provide me with ideas, connection, fun, excitement, adventure and growth.  Or not.  But I would never experience that magical third option if I didn’t keep my eyes, ears and brain open for possibilities – and capitalize on those possibilities by treating them as ‘potential sales.’

So – learn to sell yourself.

But the point of this post isn’t about making sales.  The point of this post is about customers.

Who is your customer?

When you’re working on something – and we’re all working on something, whether it’s building widgets, designing mouse traps, taming tigers or cooking dinner – you need to know who your customer is.  If you want to be remarkable, focus all of your attention and effort and brain power on delighting your customer.  Because, if your customer is not pleased, then your effort has failed.

An important part of this process is figuring out who is NOT your customer.   Sometimes we try to please every voice in the room.  But trying to please everyone is the sure path to mediocrity.  By knowing who your customer is and training your sights on delighting that customer, you will excel in your space.

So, for me, if I want to be a remarkable writer, I might focus on children’s fantasy.  This means my audience is children’s fantasy readers (and their supporters).  My audience is NOT serious adults, and it excludes many of my lawyer and banker friends.  It’s not my parents or my boss or my secretary.

You see where we’re heading?  If I know that my audience does NOT include serious adults, then I know what to do when serious adults tell me I should do X or I should never do Y in my work.  I know how to react when those serious adults who read my work say, “I don’t get it’ or “I hate this.”  Suddenly, honest and sincere criticism that had the potential to hurt my feelings AND derail my project AND make me modify my work product can be seen in the proper context.

If I know that my audience is kids who love fantasy, then I better find me some kids who love fantasy and find out what stories they love and why.  I better know who their favorite authors are and how many books they read and what their reading budget is (and whether there’s room in that budget for unknown children’s fantasy authors).  I better find out if having fabulous illustrations makes a difference in how much a story captivates them and whether they love reading with Mom and Dad snuggled up before bedtime or whether they prefer reading alone in their tree house.  I need to have a crystal clear picture of the types of things that please and delight my young customers so I can create work that becomes a treasured piece of their memories.  If I know who my customer is, and if I focus on my customer’s needs, then I have a better chance of making them happy.

Even as a mom, I can use this way of thinking to guide my parenting.  As a mom, I know that my audience is NOT my parents, the neighbors, or the schools.   My audience is my children BUT!  Not my untamed bundle of chaos children of today.  I think as a mom, my audience is my children of the future.  How can I manage parenting my kids so that when they are mature and wonderful adults, they will be delighted with my work?  (Is delighted too strong a word to use in a parenting context?)  In any case, hopefully you see what I mean.

So, you:

  • What is your life about?
  • What is your life’s work – now or in an ideal sense?
  • Who is your customer for that work – and who is NOT?
  • Finally – how can you design and build and execute your work so that you delight your customer?

Would love to know what you think of this question.  Is it the right question?

thanks all,


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