Listen up!

Guest Blog by Mark Stiving

“Who will buy your product and why?”

Pricing expert Mark Stiving. See more of his writing at

That was the question I asked in last month’s blog.  Do you know the answer to this question? If not, how do you find out?

You listen.

Go listen to your market. Pick up the phone and call people. Listen to them. Learn from them. Who should you listen to? Several types of people.

Customers:  Call people who’ve already bought from you. Ask them why–but don’t accept the first answer. Probe deeper.

  • What else did they consider?
  • What would they have done if you didn’t exist?
  • What criteria did they use to make the decision?
  • What benefits did they hope to receive?
  • What benefits did they actually receive?
  • Can they quantify the value of those benefits?

You are trying to put yourself in the mind of someone who liked your product enough to buy it.

Prospects:  Find strangers who you think might or should be interested in a product or service like yours.  Emphasize that you are not selling anything and would just like their opinion.

  • Ask them if they’ve experienced the types of problems that you solve. Get them to tell you stories about these problems. Listen carefully to the vocabulary that they use. These may become some of the most powerful words in your sales and marketing communications.
  • Do they have any similar problems?
  • If they wanted to solve those problems, where would they look?
  • Why haven’t they solved the problem yet?
  • Would they consider a product like yours? Be fair and don’t sell. If anything, give them a gift of your product if you can.

Distribution channels: If you are selling through a channel, listen to them. They often have a good feel for your end buyers. They probably understand your competition. Don’t take their advice as gospel, but absolutely listen to their opinions and especially to their understanding of the market.

Partners:  Many companies rely on partners as part of the fulfillment or part of the product. Listen to these partners closely. Not only do you want their opinions about your market, but you absolutely must understand them.

  • What are they looking for out of the partnership?
  • If they didn’t partner with you, what would they do?
  • How much additional value would they receive after partnering with you?
  • Can you quantify that value?

Surely there are even more types of people you should listen and learn from, but this is a start. Here is the key message. You don’t know everything. You don’t have all the answers. You know about you. You know that you like what you are building, but you are not your market. You must listen to the market with as much objectivity as possible.

Listening has some amazing benefits, but the two biggest:

  1.  You build better products.  Wouldn’t it be great if you built products your market wants and would pay for?  How do you know what the next iteration of your product should be? If you’re not intentionally listening, you’re probably wasting your time, energy and money.
  2.  You learn what to say in your marketing in a way that resonates. You can talk about why other people buy your product, in the language of your customer. You can talk about problems that people solve, and the results they achieve.

You might be wondering what listening has to do with pricing. We’ll talk about that next month. For now…please, go listen.

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