Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

“The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him.” Peter Drucker

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Theodore Levitt

Customers don’t care about products or services – they want solutions.

Developing a creative, satisfactory solution to a vital, unmet customer need is the origin of many businesses. But as it matures, the business often loses its focus on how it makes a difference for the customer, how it produces value that helps the customer succeed. Companies begin to define themselves in terms of the products or services they sell, rather than by the unique solutions delivered to meet a customer’s crucial need.

This is a natural evolution, typically driven by readily available data generated as a company monitors the products or services sold and the resulting profit produced. It’s much easier to track quantifiable sales or production data than it is to evaluate quantifiable benefits produced for customers. And as more is invested to improve existing products or services, or to increase the efficiency of the operations used to produce them, the pressure grows to pay even more attention to the accessible, operational data than to the customer experience.

It is true that the most productive way for your business to grow is to multiply the number of transactions with existing customers. But beware – this productivity will vanish if your profit motive focuses more on increased sales of products and services than on your purpose of making a difference for your customers. Enduring customer relationships wilt when your motivation becomes more internal than external, focused on selling more quarter-inch drills.

How would your people characterize your business?
Would they describe it in terms of solving a vital customer need
or in terms of the products or services you offer?