Customers are not Companies. They’re People!

Judith M. Guido, Chairwoman / Founder, Guido & Assoc.

The key to success is understanding that your customers are living, breathing humans versus a company that is nothing more than a designated legal entity such as an LLC or an S corporation. It is our customers’ humanness that determines why, what, how, where and when they buy products and services from us or our competitors. The legal document that defines the business entity sits silently in the database or file drawer of a government office and gives us no insight into our customers.

So, what do we need to know about customers? First, identify your core customer — the person or group whose buying behavior results in optimal profit. Then, find others with a similar customer profile. The rest of your customers are more than likely draining profits and energy out of you and your team. Increase their pricing so they are buying at an optimal profit or introduce them to your competition.

Next, realize there is usually more than one individual or group included in the decision-making process, and each has a specific job to perform, gains they wish to secure, and pains they must avoid that affect and influence their decisions. It is up to you to understand which jobs, gains, pains and outcomes have been prioritized and align them with your solutions.

There are distinct types of key customers that exist in the buying process with each having specific roles. The six primary customer profile types you’ll most often encounter are the influencers, recommenders, economic buyers, decision-makers, end users and saboteurs.

The influencers are the individuals or groups whose opinions decision-makers may listen to, even if informally. They have the potential to sway a decision one way or the other. I have had clients who underestimated these folks and ended up on the short end of the deal. Next are the recommenders whose job is to conduct the search for a particular product, service or team, and make a formal recommendation for or against it. Know what motivates these folks and what priorities are driving their recommendations.

Economic buyers are the individuals or group who control the investment and make the actual purchase. Economic buyers may also include a third-party management group or government employees. It’s vital you satisfy the financial criteria and priorities of the folks who write the check. Cost and return on their investment are always going to be key drivers for them.

Decision-makers are the person or group ultimately responsible for making the final choice of whom is awarded the win. These customers have the authority over the investment and hold the greatest power.

But let’s not forget two more important customers who yield power, the end user who is the beneficiary of the product, service and team that supports them. And finally, the individual or group most likely to blindside you, the saboteurs. These are the folks who can obstruct or derail the process of evaluating and purchasing your products while tainting your team. Remember, customers are more than an anonymous business — get to know who is who to ensure success. 

Judith M. Guido is the chairwoman and founder of Guido & Associates, a business management consulting firm in the erosion control and green industry. Guido can be reached at 818.800.0135 or