Making recommendations is a great way to enlist a prospective buyer into doing business with you. But only if your recommendation is really catering to their burning needs. One of my favourite things to do is to try new restaurants. Recently I was in NYC and tried a number of new places for dinner. Some were great and others… well, others were social-post worthy, but for the wrong reasons. Top Chef is a show I’ve followed for a number of years and head chef Tom Collichio a central personality on the program. I’ve eaten at his Collichio and Sons restaurant three times and the food is consistently good. This trip I decided to try another one of his restaurants, Riverpark, which is over on the lower east side of Manhattan. I wasn’t surprised to find beautiful decor and friendly staff. What WAS remarkable was the staff knowledge about the menu and wine list and their ability to inform, educate and most of all make recommendations. One thing I don’t think businesses do enough is ask questions of customers and make solid (non-biased) recommendations. Instead we just try and sell something that WE want to sell.
“Buy my new widget.” “It’s a great widget.” “You get a free bonus when you buy the widget today.” “That looks great on you!”
That night at dinner I had chosen what I wanted to eat, but I didn’t recognise the wines on the menu and so wasn’t sure what to choose. (Left to my own devices I’d go with an Aussie red cause that’s comfortable, but most of the wines were Italian.) So, I asked for a recommendation. Well… Not only did the young server (he was not the sommelier) make a recommendation but he went on to me about the region of Italy, the topography, landmarks in the region, the growers and the qualities of the wine. He also offered me a tasting of his recommendation. I know that if if I didn’t like it he’d make another recommendation and no doubt be equally exuberant in his description of the qualities of the wine. The wine he chose wasn’t the most expensive. It was the one he thought would pair best with the meal I’d chosen. Additionally, the choice reflected what I suggested I might like. When we cater to what our customers’ need we can probably approach a solution from a number of ways. We can tailor why we recommend by putting together a custom solution that really fits that customer’s needs. But, do we take the time to ask the client what they really need, and then make a recommendation based on what’s most important to them? I know that there have been times when the solution that best suited one of our clients was NOT what they originally asked about. For instance, we’ll often get enquiries about Membership – our flagship product that gives women an all-round solution to some of the key problems women face in business – a need for specific skills, marketing for their business, a network of like-minded people. But this solution isn’t for everyone. Some women are at a stage in their business when a specific course or online seminar is what would be best prescribed for their stage of business. Or others, what is really going to put a fire under them and move their business forward is a series of mentoring sessions where we can drill down in to specific challenges they are facing as they grow their business. Without asking the questions about what the real needs are, what the problems are that the customer is trying to solve, we can’t really make the best recommendation for that customer.