Today buyers have become so adept at doing the initial purchase research that they no longer need or have the patience for a sales presentation on the benefits of your service or product.
“A Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study of more than 1,400 B2B customers across industries revealed that 57 percent of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. So, in a majority of cases a decision was made, based either on whom to invite to bid or whom to actually purchase from, before anyone knew the prospect was a prospect. This same CEB study also found that 53 percent of those surveyed claimed that the sales experience itself was one of the greatest contributing factors in continued loyalty to the brand.”¹
What does this mean for the typical sales professional?
It means you have to find a way to make your sales process as useful and distinct as the products and services you are selling. Sales is no longer only about being found and providing educational information (though that is very important). To be relevant, you must have prospects looking to you as an adviser, an authority, a problem solver, and a guide. You must also create a show that is worthy of attention. It’s not just your product or service that must perform, it’s your sales and marketing process that must sizzle as well.
What is the differential that keeps customers devoted to you?
Let’s say you’re shopping for the services of a mortgage lender. Your research finds a few sites that appeal to you. They provide you with a lot of information regarding financing, the mortgage process, market updates, resources, and even a weekly newsletter. Still, you’re not sure which lender is right, and it’s a big enough purchase decision that you want to get it right and obtain the best mortgage and advice.
So you decide to email a couple of questions to a few lenders of the sites you found that seemed the most informative. One replies back that you have been added to their email list and will begin receiving their weekly newsletter. Another reply says they received your email and will reply within 24 hours. Then there was the one that replied back with a personal email highlighting your questions and telling you his recommendations and advice based on your particular financing needs. In addition he provided several links to online resources and articles to validate his advice.
Now, is that sales process useful? I’d say very much so!
The beauty of this kind of sales process is that it greatly favors the company that understands and delivers on their value proposition.
“This is the new standard. Creating sales insight, follow-up, and consulting that is so useful people will be willing to pay to receive it.”¹
Following are some thoughts to consider:
- “People turn to experts when they are faced with personal or complex problems. They turn to trusted sources that provide strategic value. To become that source, you have to know the business value your company delivers, as perceived by your customers. This includes what your company does, why, and the way it does so.”¹
- Your prospects see you differently than your competitors when you share your expertise with the intent of helping them solve an immediate problem.
- Your email communications pass intention scrutiny if they are perceived to:²
- Clarify issues.
- Offer information with little obvious gain to your company.
- Not request anything from your prospects beyond their attention.
- Reputation is earned or lost based on cumulative impressions. Consistency in the quality of content eliminates conflicts and doubts that otherwise could cost you attention. Elements that contribute to your reputation:²
- Customer success stories
–especially for similar problem resolution
- Word of mouth by customers and peers
–online or offline
- Search results
–company, products, and keywords
- Media coverage
- Previous interactive dialogues held with your company
- Customer success stories
- Addressing urgent problems from prospects and customers can increase “earned” attention.²
- The sources of information available to buyers of complex products continue to grow in volume and quality. Today, buyers have achieved new capabilities to understand an industry’s trends, translate that into business pain/opportunity that can be addressed, assemble a list of potential service/product experts, and analyze the best solution for their specific needs. This is the point: not one of these new sources of information has required the involvement of a sales professional. Buyers are leveraging these new information sources, rendering the salesperson to a secondary role
–particularly early in the process.
- Timing is everything. It is far more challenging to align the prospect’s buying process with the company’s selling process.
- Marketers who understand, guide, and facilitate the buying process are able to have a real and measurable impact on both revenue and sales effectiveness.
- Without key insights and responsive strategies, the sales professional is blind to the true motivations and agendas of the buyer, and significantly hamstrung in his ability to shape and influence the purchase process.¹
Resources and References
¹John Jantsch, Duct Tape Selling: Think Like a Marketer – Sell Like a Superstar, Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 2014
W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy, Harvard Business School Press, 2005
²Ardath Albee, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, McGraw Hill, 2010
³Steven Woods, Digital Body Language, New Year Publishing LLC, 2009