Introduction to Customers

Quick Summary: There are a few, seemingly universal customer concepts that should always be considered.


“The customer” is a subject that receives an incredible amount of attention that impacts virtually every aspect of every business, and rightly so.  While focusing on each individual customer, there are also some higher-level, general concepts that should be considered in every interaction.  Once stated, they are obvious, but are often overlooked in the desire to satisfy or delight each customer.

Google search the word “customer” or search the articles in this collection and you will find an almost countless number of references.  The reason is simple and obvious: customers are the lifeblood of business.  Including one short chapter in this collection on this subject obviously does not scratch the surface in discussing all of the aspects regarding customers and customer relationships with vendors.  The previous two chapters included 48 articles on sales topics.  Clearly, many of those articles could have equally been included in this chapter, since sales activities are almost entirely focused on customers.  Similarly, most of the 26 articles included in this chapter could also have been included in the Sales chapters. As stated in the introductory article to the Managing the Sales Effort, Chapter 5.01, it is best to review these two together.  The six sections included in this chapter are briefly described below.

Chapter Sections and Summaries

Customer Concepts

This section covers some obvious but often overlooked comments about customers, including the fact that customers are the lifeblood of every company and they can be divided into multiple categories based on the relationship between them and the vendor.  It also discusses the inherent advantage of incumbent suppliers and the fact that the in-vogue emphasis on key-decision makers may be misplaced.

Good and Bad Customers

Although it is not often publicly addressed, some customers actually represent “bad” opportunities and, as painful as it may seem, should not be pursued.

Good Customers, Bad Events

Even with the best intentions, inadvertent destructive events can, and probably will, occur with every customer.  Planning for them in terms of how to avoid them and minimizing their impacts is a far better strategy than merely hoping that they will not occur.

Make it Personal

Following the axiom that markets don’t buy products, companies do, and companies don’t buy products, individuals do, make the sales relationship personal.

Foreign Customers

Foreign customers may be on a different continent or simply in a different local segment.  Logically extending past successful formulas may be inappropriate.  Hiring local guides that can expose land mines in those greener pastures is an excellent method of avoiding serious setbacks.

Customer Control

Sales reps typically sell products or services, while customers want to buy solutions to their problems.  Both must work together.  Neither truly has total control.


Chapter Articles and Summaries

Introduction to Customers

There are a few, seemingly universal customer concepts that should always be considered.

The Drug Supplier

Customers supply the wonder drug: Revenue.

Customer Categories

Take time to understand your customer relationships.

Key Decision Makers Don't

KDMs do not make decisions without underlying support.

The Power of Incumbency

Overcoming the resistance to change is difficult.

Characterizing Customers

Take time to identify the characteristics of an ideal customer.

Unqualify Fast

Conserve resources by unqualifying sales opportunities early.

Small Customers, Big Problems

Small customers may not be equipped to support your offering.

Tire Kickers Can Cause Flats

Don’t mistake interested individuals for customers.

 Firing a Customer

Terminating a customer relationship may be the best option.

Customers Are Always Testing

Every interaction with a prospect is a pass or fail test.

Customer Checking Accounts

Bank multiple positive experiences to offset negative events.

Transferring Customer Risk

Assuming some of the customer’s risk can help close a sale.

Our Product, The Customer

Without direct contact, it is easy to develop an impersonal attitude.

Building Customer Trust

It takes consistent performance over time to build trust.

Hearing Versus Broadcasting

It is natural to focus on what we are saying instead of what is being heard.

Saving Face and the Order

When a stalemate is reached, the game has to be changed to recover.

Say Thank You and Mean It

Email and mechanized responses do nothing to build relationships.

The Customer May Not Be Right

Determine the customer’s issues as they perceive them before trying to resolve them.

Hire Local Guides

Distant views are usually deceiving; activities need to up close and personal.

Speak English, Think English

Strengths can become weaknesses when approaching customers in different markets.

Customer Distractions May Be OK

Staying focused is critical, but examining potential distractions may be a game changer.

A Great Investment Opportunity

Some companies assume other companies will fill the gaps that they ignore. It seldom happens.

No End Without an End-to-End

Sales are dependent upon a clear understanding of the availability of a solution to a problem.

Center of the Universe

The market and customers do not revolve around you; the opposite is true, but often missed.

No One Has Total Control

In any relationship, neither party has total control; either party can terminate it at any time.

Article Number : 5.030101   

A Handy Reference Guide for Executives and Managers at All Levels.

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