MANAGING THE CHANGING WORLD OF SELLING
Customers today probably know more about your products and services than ever before. Gone are the days when a buyer who wanted information on a product or service called up the reps of potential suppliers who provided such information. Nowadays buyers have unprecedented information, competitive pricing, and have become difficult to reach through traditional sales and marketing channels. All of us are customers in some form or other and we expect buying to be a painless process and of course we demand high levels of service. With the customer now in control of the buying process, in this edition of The SalesPulse we look at the implication for the sales, marketing and management communities. If we look at the buying process shown below,
a buyer could be 60% of the way through before they have any need to contact a supplier; thank you Google et al. In fact in excess of 60% of buyers make the first contact rather than the other way around.
So the first messages for marketing are: does your website help your customers and prospects easily gain the basic information they need? Of course it describes what you have to offer, but does it provide enough information?; does it help the buyer look at comparable solutions without trashing them; does it reassure them that you will deliver what you promise; does it help them de-risk the decision, does it show what you have successfully achieved for other customers and does it demonstrate value? Is this information structured in such a way that it is easy to find? i.e. does it lead the buyer through the process?
The next key messages are for salespeople; if the first contact you have with a buyer is through a formal document, an invitation to tender or the like, you have to decide whether to go for it, and I am sure all sales people have a methodology for doing this. This approach puts the buyer in control. A far better way is for the sales person to identify the need and the benefits associated with meeting it. This demands a significant understanding of the customers business but puts you in control of the sale, reduces the amount of work the customer has to do and takes away the uncertainty and risk of the “open tender”. Great sales people generate this detailed understanding through research and through building reliable business relationships. Such relationships often give suppliers the inside track on formal tenders.
The key message for business managers is; how easy is it for your customers to do business with you? Do you know? Have you ever asked them? Do your processes help expedite the customer’s order or are they geared to supporting your needs first and the customers’ needs second? I have seen many organisations where it is more difficult to place the order than it was to win it. Not only does this frustrate your customers but it adds lots of unnecessary costs to your business; in simple terms, simplify your back office processes and make the customer experience a good one.
The best way to understand and manage the changes in buying behaviour is to involve your customers in your business. Apart from helping you understand what you need to change, doing this will improve their perception of you and increase their loyalty as well.