Imposing our values on customers

In working with small business owners, I am often amazed at how frequently they seek to impose their values upon their customers. Sometimes this occurs is small, subtle ways. And other times it occurs in a huge way.

One of the most common ways small business owners do this is by declaring that customer’s won’t pay higher prices. Many believe that customers only buy on the basis of price, and so they seek to do anything reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) to keep their prices low.

Certainly, in some industries competing on price is simply the business model. Commodities are a prime example. But even when one is selling a commodity, one doesn’t have to compete solely on the basis of price. The success of brand names is one example.

When an owner refuses to offer his customer options he is imposing his values on the customer. The owner believes something to be true, and acts accordingly. He never bothers to find out if it is true of this particular customer. Rather than offer the customer options–and let the customer decide–the owner offers one option and the customer must take it or leave it.

Over the years I have had many customers buy from me when I would have bet the farm that they wouldn’t. Often, the reason they have bought from me is because I gave them options. I spent the time to learn what they want and why, and then offered a number of solutions to meet their needs.

I don’t like others making assumptions about what I want. They may or may not be correct, but it is my money and I will decide how to spend it. We should do the same with our customers.

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