“What I do is call my client’s customers . . . ” I said, in a dinner conversation with a marketer, at a conference.

“And they all say something different,” he interrupted, proudly, and laughing, because this was his own favorite rationale for not calling his own customers.

“No,” I replied. “That’s the interesting thing. They actually say the same things, often using the very same phrases to describe their needs, preferences, observations, and trends. By the sixth or seventh call to similar types of customers, the trends are firmly established.”

The marketer was suddenly quiet, because I had just yanked one of his favorite excuses out from under him.

I always feel sorry for the marketer’s company when this happens. That same marketer could have made 5 – 10 phone calls to his current customers (using tested methods) and seen the truth for himself. He could have uncovered the issues that matter most to their current – and future – customers. He could have helped his company’s leaders finally incorporate their customers’ perspective into their decisions and actions, and then watched the company’s sales go up.

Of course, I explained how the method works, and told him about my book, which describes the method in detail. Whether he actually does it or not will be a test of his character. It takes some guts to make the first call. After that, it gets easy. He will wonder why he waited so long.

There’s really only one demographic that matters to you: Your current customers. 

Marketing experts love to make up “personas” and use “demographics” to describe their intended audience. It’s a total waste of time, because a company’s current customers are a demographic onto themselves, the only one that matters.

These are the people who came to you, because they had a need they thought you could fill. They had questions and concerns. They chose you, instead of your competition, for specific reasons.

These people, and what they know, puts them in a category all their own – a category of people who matter more to you than any others, because of what they can teach you about selling successfully to future customers. Fortunately, they are as close as the telephone.

Now that you’re not selling to them anymore, and if you ask them correctly, your current customers will be happy to help you understand who they are, what matters to them, why they bought, how they bought, what it has been like doing business with you, what they now tell others about you, how they’d look for you if they were starting over, what they think of your competition, the trends and opportunities they see for you, and more.

Here’s the revenue-producing truth about this: Your current customers have needs and perceptions in common. Not only with each other, but with your future customers. If you understand your current customers, you will know how to sell successfully to your future customers.

Why did the marketer think that all their customers are different? Because salespeople are always telling everyone that each customer is different, and that it is the salesperson’s incredible intuitive powers and incomparable ability to persuade that make each sale happen.

The truth, as all customers know, isn’t that way at all. It is the customer who comes into the conversation with the strong need, and who purchases in spite of all the disturbing things that the salesperson does – or doesn’t – say or do.

Salespeople are right about one thing: Human beings ARE quirky. But what they don’t realize is that their customers have quirks in common.

Salespeople don’t see the commonality because they are completely focused on closing the deal in front of them. They’ll try whatever selection from their sales pitch juke box that they think will clinch the deal; paying attention to overall trends gets in the way of this activity. If you ask salespeople about trends, they will offer you anecdotes from their last couple of sales calls, telling you things that make them look good and which they hope you will believe. It’s a far cry from systematic customer research.

The very act of coming to you to fill a need, then buying from you – creates a demographic, a cluster of human beings who have quirks in common. This is YOUR demographic.

You don’t have to guess what they’re thinking. You can ask them! You have their contact information. And they will be glad to talk to you, if you approach and interview them correctly.

The answers to your most pressing questions about “how to sell more successfully” are right under your nose, free for the asking. You don’t have to imitate other companies; it won’t work. Their market position and reputation differ from yours; their products are different; their customers chose them for different reasons. Your company, situation, and products are unique.

And, you don’t have to listen to gurus who try to convince you that their marketing or selling methods are just what you need. Nothing they can tell you will be as powerful as what your own customers tell you – about you, your company, your products, and themselves.

Don’t cheat yourself out of a glorious revenue-rich future just because you were too proud or too shy to pick up the phone. One of the things  your customers have in common is a desire for you to succeed, so you’ll be around when they need you again. Let them help you.