The question you REALLY need to ask to get sales during COVID-19

During a rough patch like the quarantine, you will benefit if you ask your customers this question about your business

It’s way deeper than “How am I gonna make money?”

This virus has thrown us all for a loop. School closings. Transit worries. Town curfews and the quarantines. I won’t run down the list but it’s definitely had an impact. It’s the uncertainty that is challenging.

And for the entrepreneur or small business owner…whew!

Questions about cash flow, taxes, employees, accounts payable. I am a fellow entrepreneur and understand how it feels. It’s hard to make decisions as things keep changing.

However, a few years ago, I discovered a tool that might help in these changing times. I was dealing with a rough patch in my business and started asking this question. It seemed simple at first. Too simple. But it changed everything. I went from struggling to finding a ton of short and long term term clients that were ideal to work with.

Over the years, I realized that many entrepreneurs often don’t ask it. So let’s start here:

What is the problem

that my customers need solved?

Do I really understand why they buy?

On the surface, it seems simple.

But sometimes you might have to dig a bit deeper. It’s easy to think you know the problem that your business solves. But do your customers buy for other reasons?

Read this through the lens of your CEO Leadership hat. This isn’t your go-getter “I can do anything” hat. Or even “I know what I’m doing” hat. This is the thinking hat where you look at the business from the 10,000 foot view and think about where you want to be 10 year or 20 years in the future.

I am calling this out for a reason. When we are stressed, this is the part of the brain that will shut down. You are hyper focused on how to make sales TODAY. But this is EXACTLY the mindset that you need to adopt to deal with these ever-changing waves.

I’m not in the coffee shop for coffee

Years ago, I worked in a stressful job.

During my breaks, I used to frequent a local coffee shop. There were several options in the area. Prettier. Served better-tasting coffee. Even cheaper.

But, I always went to this shop.

  • When I walked in, they knew me by name and my order.
  • If I spaced out and left my wallet, they let me come back later with my money.
  • If I needed to order multiple orders for my colleagues, they knew exactly what we all wanted.
  • I crack jokes with the crew or be in total silence and everyone received me openly as I was.

If an outsider visited the store, they never understood why we would wait patiently for our coffee. They often left and went to another shop.

We weren’t there for the coffee. The store provided comfort. A stress free zone. A space where you could step away and find people who understood you.

Even after I left that job, I used to go back and visit. Even when they raised their prices. It was an oasis when I needed to be in a caring space or needed a moment of peace. I felt like I was understood. I would happily make the trek and to have someone greet me by name and with my coffee order like I belonged.

When a music school isn’t a music school

One of my Mom friends shared this story and I thought it was interesting to view it from the lens of an entrepreneur.

When the quarantine occurred, this Mother and the other Moms in a particular music class were not interested in signing up for virtual classes with their children. The company was confused about what happened as they had talented instructors, were known for their performances, and had all of the bells and whistles that a parent would want for their children in an extra-curricular activity.

The Mothers didn’t want to return for one reason – they used the class as social time with each other. It was a community. When they couldn’t connect in person and share their stories – ie. issues with partners, challenges with families, fun moments during the week – the class felt irrelevant.

The school wasn’t paying attention to this nuance. They didn’t realize that they almost lost parents a few week earlier. A few parents had a misunderstanding with one of the teachers. They wanted to quit. But a few of the other Moms stepped in and convinced them to stay. It escaped the attention of the staff who thought that their value add was the quality music lessons.

It’s the community.

So how do I apply it in my business?

I challenge you to get REAL with this question in your business. Don’t look at the surface at the services your company provides.

Roll up your sleeves and ask your customers – Please tell me honestly why do you buy from me? What is the real problem that I solve?

Be wiling to hear the honest answer. Because when you do, you will have the tool that can lead to long term success.

Having problems figuring it out? Here are three options:

  1. Talk to your customers. But listen to their honest answers beyond “but I like you”. What is the real reason that they give you? Even if it’s different from your own.
  2. Work with a business coach or strategist to solve this puzzle in your business. Someone who has built and can listen for the business model can help you stay impartial and honest with coming up with the real answer.
  3. Read reviews, testimonials, feedback forms, letters of recommendation. Anything that gives you feedback. What do people keep saying again and again? And you might have to have someone read them to help you find the theme. But it is always there

It’s the real reason why your customers rely on you. They might not even be conscious of it when they buy.

But if you listen for it and honor that reason – that gives you the PERFECT place to create solutions during this current changing landscape. Solutions that help in the short term. And wins for long term gains.