Both my parents were schoolteachers, and when I was born, my mother temporarily stopped working to take care of my brother (2 years older than me) and I.
So, to earn some extra income, my father got a second job selling vacuums at a local department store.
One day, my father noticed a sketchy-looking guy in the store. The guy was dressed strangely and was walking around and touching a lot of the merchandise.
So, my father called the security guard over. The guard came over and my father pointed out the strange man. "You should keep an eye on that guy; he looks like a real hoodlum," my father said.
"That hoodlum's my boss," replied the security guard.
Clearly my father was pretty surprised to find that out.
It turns out that the head security guard would occasionally dress up like a hoodlum and roam through the stores. Because he looked non-threatening to "real" hoodlums, he was better able to catch those hoodlums shoplifting items.
What the head security guard was really doing was putting himself in his customers' shoes. In his case, the customers were bad guys trying to steal.
For most of us, our customers are folks that we want to buy our products or services. Or folks that we want to invest in our businesses.
The key to our success is to put ourselves in our customers' shoes and/or to essentially spy on them like the security guard did.
We need to do this to learn critical customer intelligence: What are their hot buttons? What drives their decision-making? What have they bought or invested in previously? What are their goals and how do they hope that we can help achieve them?
Particularly when searching for investors, many entrepreneurs fail to see things from their customers' perspective. They think too much about what's in it for them. The key is always to find the win-win; the solution that allows your customers to win while you win too.
So, always spend time amongst your customers. And ideally, like the head security guard, you can blend in; so customers don't feel threatened, don't put up a guard, and give you the genuine answers you need to know.