Listen to and Serve Your Customers

By: Berlin Packaging Specialist
Date: October 28, 2019

Listen to & serve your Customers

Last month, we posted a Packaging Perspective that discussed the benefits of starting a book club at your company. The last book our club read was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I would like to share an excerpt from the book that I believe deserves attention:

About a month after I joined Facebook, I got a call from Lori Goler, a highly regarded senior director of marketing at eBay. I knew Lori a bit socially, but she made it clear this was a business call and cut to the chase. “I want to apply to work with you at Facebook, “ she said. “So I thought about calling you and telling you all of the things I’m good at and all of the things I like to do. Then I figured that everyone else was doing that. So instead, I want to ask you: What is your biggest problem, and how can I solve it?”

My jaw hit the floor. I had hired thousands of people over the previous decade and no one had ever said anything remotely like that. People usually focus on finding the right role for themselves, with the implication that their skills will help the company. Lori put Facebook’s needs front and center. It was a killer approach. I responded, “Recruiting is my biggest problem. And, yes, you can solve it.”
- Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Print

The reason I bring this up is not to discuss having an open mind to your career path, but rather to discuss the approach that Lori Goler employed to differentiate herself from the competition. It has been my experience that in business, as in life, putting the needs of others in front of your own will set you apart from others and work to your advantage. For example, in sales it is common for sales professionals to put the needs and goals of their company ahead of their customer’s. You have something your customer needs and you have, or can match, the best price. The result is a relationship built on price; one where you provide a quick fix solution to fulfill whatever need(s) your customer may have had. The relationship does not extend beyond the transactional level, and while you may have satisfied a short-term goal of getting the sale, the customer will likely be easily persuaded to move the business to the next company that can provide a lower cost. You become a commodity.

A Servant Approach

By now you may have heard of servant leadership – putting the needs of your team members ahead of yours to help them grow and flourish. As a result, your team becomes loyal and their success translates into your success. The same approach can be applied to sales. Instead of giving the hard sell as to how your product and services are better than your competition, begin with putting the needs of your customers ahead of yours. Approach the relationship as a partner in their business rather than simply a service provider; take the time to understand the cause of their problems (symptoms) to a molecular level. Once you do that, the dynamic of the customer/supplier relationship evolves into a mutually beneficial partnership. Doing so affords you the opportunity to offer solutions that will improve their situation, regardless of whether or not you are the service provider. Ultimately, your customer will recognize you as a trusted advisor because you put their needs and goals ahead of your own. When that happens you are in the position to win their business when their needs align with your products and services.

This ties in to what Lori Goler did with Sheryl Sandberg. Understanding the potential that Facebook could offer her, Lori set out to understand the needs of Facebook before selling Sheryl on why and how she could fill the gap. This approach blew Sheryl away and gave Lori the outcome she set out to achieve.

I would encourage you to think about your position and whether or not you are approaching your customers, both internal and external, with a servant approach. If not, try listening to their needs before expressing yours and see where it takes you. After all, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Listen. Understand. Serve.