It will come as no surprise that customers want it their way (to paraphrase Burger King). Yet many companies don't have processes for figuring out what that means.

Take this quiz to assess your customer "IQ" (or "Insight Quotient") and determine the necessary next steps for shortening your sales cycle.

The Questions

  1. Can you describe your firm's most promising prospects?

  2. Can you identify the most important problem you solve for them?

  3. Do they recognize they have this problem?

  4. Do you know what events trigger a need for your solution?

  5. Can you rank their top three "buying criteria"?

  6. Is it easy for prospects to identify your firm as a possible vendor?

  7. Do they know you can help them?

  8. Do you know where they turn for information?

  9. Do you know how they learned about your firm?

  10. Do they remember you when it comes time to buy?

The Scoring

If you've answered eight or more with a "yes"—congratulations: you probably have a line outside your door! If you've answered four to seven with a "yes," check out the tips below to increase your customer IQ. If you've answered fewer than three in the affirmative, consider spending more time with your customers.

Customer insights drive sales. To win, you need to give customers what they want, make it easy for them to buy, and ensure that they know you exist and can meet their needs. Each of these requires deep customer knowledge, because everyone buys differently. The person who buys a Cadillac shops differently from the guy who drives a Honda Civic.

1. Examine your past successes

Which customers were easiest to attract? The most profitable? Bought the quickest? Became steady customers? Those are the successes that you want to replicate.

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Barbara Bix is managing principal of BB Marketing Plus, where she helps companies enhance their brands by capturing and enhancing the customer experience.