When I was a young boy, I used to read Mad Magazine.

Mad Magazine is a humor magazine.

I didn’t have a subscription to Mad Magazine.

I had to save my pennies to have enough money to purchase the magazine.

This meant that purchasing a copy of the magazine was a special treat because I knew I would be laughing for the rest of the day as I read all the jokes and stories in the magazine.

Alfred E. Newman was prominently displayed throughout the magazine.

Alfred E. Newman had a big gap between his teeth, and he always had a grin on his face that signified he was up to something mischievous.

Reading Mad Magazine was a guilty pleasure in my youth.

From time to time, I would come across an advertisement for X-Ray Vision Glasses.

The advertisement would display a drawing of a man with the X-Ray Vision glasses on his face.  In front of his face, he held his hand so he could see the bones hidden beneath the skin, muscles, and tendons of his hand.

I was fascinated by the X-Ray Vision Glasses.

I wanted the X-Ray Vision Glasses.

I dreamt about the X-Ray Vision Glasses.

I wondered what it would be like to look at my hand and seeing the bones move around.

Thoughts of having the X-Ray Vision inspired me that I would be just like one of my boyhood heroes Superman.

It would be amazing if I had a superpower just like Superman was a thought that bounced around in my head.

I never bought the X-Ray Vision Glasses.

I read somewhere that the X-Ray Vision Glasses were a scam.

I’m still a bit intrigued by the X-Ray Vision Glasses, but I don’t know if I could buy them.

Having a superpower to see something that is ordinarily hidden to everyone else still seems like a fantastic superpower to me.

What would life be like if I had secret knowledge?

If I had secret knowledge, I would be given a huge responsibility to use that secret knowledge for good, not for evil.

If I had secret knowledge, I would have advantages other people that didn’t have.

If I had secret knowledge about my customers, I would have the ability to serve them in new and distinct ways that would be impactful.

Then the question becomes, “How do I get this secret knowledge?”

There is a simple answer to that question.

Ask Them.

There have been many times in my life where I start thinking about ways to get something I want.

My mind goes into hyperdrive, and I start overthinking things.

This reminds me of a story Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of the Spanx empire, shared about how she got Neiman Marcus to sell her undergarments in their department store.

Sara was at a conference, and she was talking with some sales representatives from another clothing company.

The sales reps were amazed that Sara had landed the Neiman Marcus account.

The sales reps talked about all the ways they had tried to get the attention of the purchasing manager at Neiman Marcus.

“We’ve tried everything,” the sales manager stated. “We’ve gone to trade shows. We’ve done all this marketing, and still, we’ve not gotten any response from Neiman Marcus.  Sara, how in the world did you land the Neiman Marcus account?

Sara paused for a moment and replied, “I called the purchasing manager at Neiman Marcus.”

With a simple phone call to the purchasing manager at Neiman Marcus, Sara was able to secure an appointment that was the launching pad for the meteoric rise of Spanx.

How many times in my life have I made things too difficult because I was overthinking the solution?

Often there is an easier way to get what I want.

When my mind goes into overthinking mode, I get stuck, and I start to spin my wheels.

When I get in my overthinking mode, I find I have to take a break.

By taking a break, I give myself to step back from the situation and look at it from a different perspective.

Once I’ve had the chance to look at it from a different perspective, I’m able to think differently and come up with a better solution.

Looking at things from a different perspective is often the way I’m able to adapt, adjust, and improve.

This is why asking my customers is a valuable way to gain a new perspective.

By talking with my customers, I’m able to learn about what is important to them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stressed over a detail or item that was unimportant to my customers.

I’ve spent countless hours “improving” something that was unappreciated by my customers.

At times, this lack of appreciation bothered me.

However, when I step back and think about this from a new perspective, I’m able to recognize something new.

My customers didn’t appreciate that work because the work was not related to something they valued.

If I’m spending time, energy, money, and resources on something that my customers don’t value, then I am wasting my time, energy, money, and resources.

I would be smarter to spend time discovering what my customers value and then use the information to deliver solutions that are important to them.

Here is my three-step process I use to gain information from my customers on what is valuable to them.

Remember, people pay good money for what they value.

Step 1 Meet With My Top Customers

You mean, I have to talk to my customers?

That’s preposterous.

Why in the world would I want to talk to my customers?

I’m being sarcastic because I’m trying to make a point.

You don’t have to talk to all your customers.  You only need to talk to the most important customers.

Get a list of your customers and grab a piece of paper.

Now you’re going to write down ten of your customers that are your favorite customers.

Now it’s time to contact your top ten customers and take them out to lunch.

These top ten customers have been important to the growth of your business.  It should be a pleasure for you to spend some quality time with someone important for your business.

Additionally, eating with people is an impactful way to deepen the relationship you have with them.

Step 2 Ask Two Simple Questions

During lunch, most of your focus should be on the person you’re eating with.

This is a time to get to know your customers more as a human being.

One of the things I relish most about my customer relationships is getting to hear about the personal side of their lives.

Taking the time to connect at a human level is something we need more in business.

During the conversation, state that you’d like to ask two simple questions.

Here are the questions.

  1. What is it that bothers you about my industry?
  2. What does my company do best?

What is it that bothers you about my industry?

The purpose of this question is to find out ways your products or services are not meeting the needs of the customers.

By asking about problems with your industry, you are able to learn what annoys your customer.

The beauty of this question is that it is asked in an indirect way that frees your customer to talk freely without worrying about offending you.

Most people like to be polite, and if you asked how you can improve your services, often you’ll get a response that everything is fine.

What does my company do best?

Many times our customers buy from us for different reasons than we think they buy from us.

Once I asked one of my customers why she bought from me.

She replied that I came up with creative solutions.

I was surprised by this response.

In my mind, I thought the most important thing did was provide her with accurate information.

When she told me I provided creative solutions, it gave me a different perspective about what was important to my customer.

Step 3 Review Answers

When you’ve met with your top ten customers, it’s time to review the comments they gave you to your two questions.

What you’ll discover as you review this information is there are some commonalities of what your customers like and don’t like.

Now you have valuable information on how to better serve your customers.

You can now focus on improving the customer experience based on what is important to your customers instead of what you think is important to your customers.

How much better will your customers feel about you and your company when you focus on what is valuable to them?

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