Jury Lesson #1: Know Your Customer’s Buying Process

Justice is blind. And apparently not very modest

Jury Lesson #1 is: know your customer’s buying process, not just what content matters to them. We, the jury, were the customers of the two lawyers (maybe they were attorneys…sorry I don’t know the difference) arguing a civil case regarding personal injury damages. The plaintiff’s lawyer spent his opening statement, and the rest of the first day’s testimony, detailing the amount of pain and suffering this poor old lady endured after she fell off the sidewalk one sunny July day at an estate sale. Sure, there was some uncertainty about the exact cause of the fall, but there was no disputing how miserable her life was afterwards and how she deserved compensation. It was very moving content, communicated in a persuasive style.

The defendant’s lawyer (representing the property management company), stated in a firm yet heartfelt manner that sometimes terrible accidents happen to good people. She reminded us that our role as jurors was not to assess the magnitude of her suffering without first deciding whether the evidence established both negligence and cause. Her evidence trivialized both the magnitude of the defect in a suspect sidewalk seam, and the likelihood that a 200lb elderly woman could have flown 14 feet from tripping on that seam to landing on the asphalt.

When the judge handed us the verdict sheet to fill in and instructed us on the relevant laws, our decision making process was clear: step 1, negligence (requires five points in the affirmative); step 2, cause; step 3, damages. In deliberations, we all felt terribly for the woman and her family. We also never got a “yes” past step 1b and the case was decided before our pizza got cold.

So to bring that lesson back to the world I normally play in–marriage, parenting, and business leadership–I am paying much more attention to the process by which  my customers (and wife and kids and colleagues) make their decisions, in addition to the content. What sort of vendor certification do they need to cut a purchase order? How many other parents do we need to meet from the new pre-school for my wife to feel comfortable? Which pajamas do I want my 3 year old to wear (because once she knows, she will choose a different set)?

I hope you find success by making the same shift in emphasis, especially by lifting the burden and asking the customer about his or her buying process directly. Whether you are in or out of the courtroom, a lot is riding on that decision.

What tips do you have about understanding your customer’s buying process? What crazy jury stories do you have? Looking forward to your comments!

photo: shutterstock

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