Who is the customer?

par Marco Brienza

6 July 2023

by Marco Brienza

6 July 2023

The question seems obvious, especially when a business developer asks it. This request – Who is the customer ? – I never fail to address it from the first meeting with a prospect. It allows me to understand the business model in which my interlocutor evolves, as well as the audience he has in view. And it is clear that he sometimes gets the wrong target(s):

  • When a consumer goods company targets point of sale regularly delivered by a distributor (the “direct” customer is the distributor);
  • When a software integrator convinces the IT managers of an SME, themselves supervised by a CFO (the customer is him);
  • When a startup wishes to market its solution to a public hospital forced to follow a tendering process (the customer is also its central purchasing body);
  • When a doctor hesitates between the notion of “patient” and “client” (the customer is health insurance);
  • etc.

The customer: B2B (or not)

Let’s start with wikipedia’s definition:

“A customer, in the economic sense, means the person or entity who makes the decision to purchase a good or service, on an occasional or regular basis, from a supplier..”

It’s clear, but I disagree.
In my sales experiences mainly in B2B, the customer is the one who pays for a good or the execution of a service. I am keen to identify this profile in the companies with which I am about to sign a contract, because it is often the best way to enlighten me on the constraints complicating the completion of my commercial mission.

Identifying the “real” customer takes time and access to it can be steep. Think it yourself, a few minutes before putting your hand in your wallet. Not for the purchase of chewing gum, but for an electric bike, a state-of-the-art laptop or a new telephone subscription: how do you feel? Personally, I would say “involved”. Between the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance, the gaze of others, the change in habits and the budgetary impact… There are reasons to feel involved!

It’s the same with your prospects. There are challenges that go beyond the question of money without avoiding it. The involvement of the “real” customer will allow you to see more clearly about his context, while shortening the part to payment; because this is where the customer journey and the mission of the business developer end.

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