Customer Recommendations Politics and Prose Style


There is a bookstore called Politics and Prose located in a neighborhood of DC that opened almost 30 years ago. The founder, Carla Cohen, truly understood the value of being connected with her customers.

In an article in Inc Magazine a few months ago, the bookstore and more importantly, Carla Cohen, were featured. There was a paragraph in the article that struck me as profound and yet many readers may have skipped over:

Cohen read in the morning, then went to the store, then read at night. “Very disciplined,” says her husband, David. At the store, Aaron Cohen says, she asked customers, ” ‘So, what do you like?’ They’d tell her, and she had read it. And she’d go to the shelf and say, ‘What about this?’ That’s merchandising.”

Carla knew her customers and knew her products so well that she could carry on a discussion and then make additional recommendations for her customers. It is really more than merchandising. Making recommendations to our customers is a powerful tool that helps build our brand and our customer relationships.

Remember, customers buy from those they like and trust. Imagine how much they must have trusted Carla when they knew she’d read the same books they had, and more, and could make recommendations of something else they might be interested in. I am sure they would have jumped at the opportunity to take her recommendations.

Kinda like being in a restaurant and being torn between two entrees; you ask the waiter/waitress for their recommendation and you can tell when they are really familiar with the food and have an opinion. I almost always take their recommendation. After they deliver the meal and ask how I like it – there is an investment in my enjoyment – a comraderie between us; both lovers of the same chicken piccata or whatever.

Sadly, Carla Cohen passed away this past year, but her legacy and the customer focused experience she created with hundreds of author interviews and book recommendations, lives on.

Ask yourself – do you know your products or your industry so well that you can converse with your customers about anything related to your business? Do you make recommendations for additional purchases based on the information you’ve learned about your customers and the industry knowledge you have? Powerful stuff!


What Can We Learn from Tough Customers?

listen closelyIn the April issue of INC magazine, reporter Kasey Wehrum shares Sales Tips from the World’s Toughest Customers. Customers like Coca-Cola, Dell, Intuit, UPS and more. The lessons are simple and yet profound:

  • Be different. And then make sure you prove it to us.
  • We can spot a fake from a mile away. (In other words, don’t oversell yourself.)
  • Go above and beyond. You would be surprised at how few of your rivals even bother to try.
  • Companies are buying your reputation, not just your products.
  • Do more research than you think you need to.
  • Be as specific as possible when describing what you can do for us.
  • Start locally, think globally.

All are great tips, but with a passion for building customer relationships, my eyes immediately went to the tip from Intuit about going above and beyond:

“In my experience, there are two ways that a small company can differentiate itself,” says Larry Wood, Intuit‘s director of sourcing. “The first is having deep expertise that can give us knowledge about a particular customer segment or a technology. The other thing is flexibility.

He’s so right. We have to start by truly understanding our customer and our offerings so that we know how to best mesh the two. As for being flexible – rules are to be guidelines, but  policies should have room for flexibility when it comes to satisfying customer’s needs.

What not to do?

“It comes down to having a sense of sales professionalism. It bothers me when a supplier comes in and tells us what they want to tell us instead of showing that they understand what our needs are, what our pain points are, and then trying to address them. That is just Sales 101.”

Whether we are trying to land a multi-billion dollar corporation as a client or a single customer spending $200 – these lessons apply.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...