What The Customer Really Means When She Says…


As a sales people, one of the things that we spend a great deal of time doing is trying to interpret what it is the customer is telling us. Oh, we all can hear the customer and what she is saying, but so often, we don’t really know what she means. There seems to be some kind of “customer code” that we have to deal with, when trying to figure out how to win over that purchasing person and make the deal.

Actually, when a sales person deals with a potential customer, he is engaging in a kind of chess match, where the seller is trying to lead the buyer down a path to buying his product; while the buyer for whatever reason is resisting. The seller is trying to find an opening where he can demonstrate how much the buyer needs his product and the buyer is always trying to keep that opening firmly closed. It is a classic case of the buyer having too many suppliers trying to sell her what is basically the same thing and the seller having too few customers buying from him. It makes for an interesting pas a deux if you will.

So, for the sake of always trying to help sales people, here are a few interpretations of what a buyer means when she says…

  • When a buyer says, “Everything is great” what he really means, “Everything is not great, but I’m not going to tell you that because I don’t feel like listening to your sales pitch for the next two hours.”
  • When a buyer says, “We have all the suppliers we need right now.” What she really means is, “I don’t want to deal with another supplier right now. It is too much of a hassle to bring a new one on.”
  • When a buyer says, “I have no idea how much of your product we buy every year”, what he is really saying is, “Of course I know exactly what I buy every year we have software that tells us that, but I am sure as heck not going to share that we with you.”
  • When a buyer says, “We only deal with suppliers that have AS9100, 31032, Nadcap, ISO 2015 or whatever else you do not have” He is really saying, “We don’t want to do business with you.” But if you have a technology they need, or you are cheap, or you are on-line with a no-touch business offering, all those “barriers to doing business” go out the window. Just my two cents here, every major OEM who tells you that you need all of these qualifications, is dealing with no spec, no qualifications, no Quality, no touch, on line vendors! Which tells you how really required these special qualifications are, when it is in their best interest to ignore them.
  • When a buyer says, “We have centralized our purchasing so that all purchasing is done out of Sofia, Bulgaria.” What she really means is, “We still really buy what we want to buy, from whom we want to buy it, but if you are not one our favorites, then we are going to adhere to this ridiculous corporate policy that we ourselves don’t really believe in.”
  • When a buyer says, “We are under a corporate edict to cut our supplier base so that we are not only, not adding new suppliers, but we are cutting some of the ones we have.” He really means, “we don’t want to do business with you…unless you have something that we really need, then forget what I just said.”
  • When a buyer says, “All our Vendors are highly qualified, thanks to our extensive vendor qualification process, and thus they are all the same, so we just go with the one who has the best price.” What he is really saying is, “We go with the cheapest price all the time, so it is much more expedient for us to believe that you are all alike, and price is the only differentiator.”
  • When a buyer says, “We use contract manufacturers, so it is up to them who they choose to buy from.” What she really means is, “We already told our contract manufacturers who to deal with and it’s not you.” And if you chase down their contract manufacturer, I can guarantee that buyer will say, “Our customer tell is who to buy from and we have to adhere to that.”
  • When a buyer says, “Glad you’re here today, I have a couple of orders I would like to place.” What she really means is, “We’re on C.O.D. with all of our suppliers so we need you, or anyone else that we don’t owe money to, to build our boards”.

But there is hope, just one more. When a buyer says, “I’m glad you came in today, we have been looking to add new suppliers, tell me about your company.” What he really means is, “This is your opening my friend, now it is up to you whether or not you win my business.” It’s only common sense.


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