Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Only 54% of sales professionals go beyond selling their product and help buyers solve a problem or achieve a goal, according to our 2023 SalesFuel survey of B2B decision-makers. The best of what’s left will ask smart discovery questions to figure out how to help.
The elite sales pros, however, the ones who are the most valuable trusted advisors to their customers, can anticipate their needs and stay ahead of the curve. They know how to practically read their customers’ minds.
I first learned about the importance of this from the father of a woman I was dating. This woman was special, and I knew I wanted to marry her. First, I had to make it through the difficult conversation with her father. Fortunately, he gave his permission, along with some advice. He told me, “You need to learn to read her mind.” When I replied I wasn’t a mind reader, he repeated his advice but didn’t elaborate.
Though it took me a while, I figured out what my father-in-law meant. I needed to understand my future wife so well that I could practically read her mind. This advice has also served me well in business.
To understand what’s on the minds of your customers, you need to track the activities of several types of buying influencers.
Related: 3 Ways to Read Your Customers’ Minds
What their CEO is saying
Your knowledge-building process should start with what their company’s CEO is saying, because what’s important to him/her becomes important to their employees and purchasing decision-makers. In smaller organizations, no purchasing takes place without the approval of the CEO. Sellers too often ignore the CEO, believing them to be beyond reach.
You may not be able to reach them, but you can educate yourself about their thoughts and activities. Start by conducting a simple online search on the CEO to learn where they’ve been quoted and where they’ve appeared publicly. You can also identify the CEO’s opinion on key business issues by reading the articles they post on their LinkedIn account.
What their buying team is doing
The employees on your customer’s buying team will be downloading position papers and signing up for webinars. They may also be visiting specific pages on your website. Using the right tracking tools, you’ll see the topics that interest them and have further insight into what is on their minds.
What their customers are saying (and doing)
Your market research on the customer’s typical buyer, their priorities and behavior can help you understand who they ultimately need to satisfy. In addition, every business wants to know what customers think of their product or service. Checking out the online reviews by customers is mandatory because you must understand your prospect’s reputation as part of your effort to read their mind.
What similar customers of yours are saying
If similar customers of yours in the same industry are experiencing a specific challenge, such as a supply-chain problem, your customer might be as well. You can speak authoritatively by introducing the topic with a phrase such as, “Some of my other accounts tell me…” Be careful to avoid any specifics that might breach confidentiality.
Related: How to Understand Customer Needs
What industry experts are saying
Your customer’s buyers may not be actively posting comments or articles about the latest trends in their industry, a situation that will make mind-reading a challenging proposition. You can improve your competitive position by tapping into the content produced by industry experts. Reading industry websites and blogs and listening to podcasts and vlogs allows you to identify the changes that are taking place, along with the pace of those changes. You’ll also learn what your customer’s competitors are doing.
With this information, you know what should be on your customer’s mind, and you’ll sound knowledgeable when you include a reference to the latest product launch or industry merger in your initial email message or during casual conversation.
What their marketing people are saying
This content reveals what they want the public to know about them. You should know it, too. Start with their website and their blog. Check LinkedIn for what they want other businesses to know. Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and other social media indicate what they are communicating to prospects and customers.
We listen to our clients about why they buy our products. We also survey their customers to find out what they ultimately need to help them succeed. These steps are not always enough to give us transparency into our customers’ minds.
When one of our smallest clients casually mentioned that they were using our proprietary research to be more credible with their clients, I perceived a way to anticipate needs and develop an opportunity. Because many business professionals seek — but are not sure how — to obtain credibility.
By listening to clients and projecting industry trends, we foresaw that today’s sales professionals navigate an increasingly competitive business climate where decision-making happens online and where buyers form opinions about sellers based on what they discover online. This online discovery process makes it crucial for sellers to possess sterling credibility.
To meet the need for enhanced credibility, we introduced a new product line, and I started writing my second book on sales credibility. Our buyers now have the tools they need to optimize their online presence and their credibility. Through our SalesCred product, they also learn how to read their prospects’ minds.
Nothing shows a customer that you care more than when you deliver a product or service before they have fully envisioned it. These people will not always openly share their thoughts. But if you are observant, attentive and caring, you can learn to read their minds. Maybe that’s why my father-in-law was such a good salesperson back in his day.