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Rethinking The Customer Buying Experience

by David Brock on February 3rd, 2010

I’m a great fan of Customer Experience Design.  Unfortunately, most of the work in customer experience design tends to be focused on web design, user interfaces and product design. There is some interesting Design Thinking work being done in business process/strategy.  I think as sales professionals we need to rethink the Customer Buying Experience.

Actually, it’s already being done, but, it’s being designed without us!  Social media and networking create means by which customers are already redesigning their buying experiences.  Axel Schultze wrote an outstanding article, Sales Process 2010, that outlined much of this.  Social media isn’t the only place we are seeing customers redesign their buying experiences.  There is some very interesting work being done by procurement thought leaders and in supply chain management.  They are reassessing how they buy, how they work with suppliers, and how they (perish the thought) collaborate with vendors.

Change is happening all around us.  It’s going to happen regardless of what position we take, the train has left the station, we need to find a way to jump on board.

The challenge, however, is we are all prisoners of our own experience.  It is difficult for us to think about how to change radically, but we tend to evolve incrementally.  If we changed our approach and our thinking, we might be able to drive some profound changes and contribute to what is already being done. 

Customer Experience Design offers an interesting way for sales professionals to redesign how we work with customers.  Imagine the insight that we might get if we applied these principles to the Customer Buying Experience?  It does produce some interesting opportunities. 

In some ways, things like this have been done before.  We have seen profound changes in relationships in working with customers on their key/strategic account programs.  In those instances, the conversation started with, “How would you like us to sell to you?”  Recently, we brought some functional executives in front of sales people (in this case CIO’s), we posed the same question, how would you like to be sold to?  The conversations all brought profound insights to the sales teams and changed the way these customers were approached.  They built closer relationships, built greater value to the customers, produced greater revenue to my clients, and reduced their cost of selling.

Start your Customer Buying Experience Design in a small way.  As outlined above, consider focusing on your key/strategic accounts.  Engage the key people in those customers in a different conversation—not about buying your products, but ask “How would you like us to sell to you?”  Focus on the process, the quality of interaction, the coverage model.  Examine how they want to buy and what their ideal buying experience might be.  Test some new ideas with them–let them help you design the process.  Once you get their insights, look at what you can change and how closely you can achieve the design parameters.

Alternatively, leverage your Customer Advisory Board  (surely you have a Customer Advisory Board).  We usually talk to them about our products, sometimes about our policies, sometimes about our strategies.  Reserve one meeting with them to talk about their Buying Experience.  Talk to them about their buying experience, leverage them to help redesign it.  Or get customers representing a key function together (for example CIO’s).

It’s in your customers’ interests to engage in these discussions.  Afterall, aren’t all of them looking for a better buying experience?

These are just starting points. Customer Experience Design and Design Thinking is much more comprehensive.  I think there are great applications to this for Sales.  We have to look at things differently, these approaches provide tools that enable us to do this. 

We’ve been spending a lot of time talking to people in this space.  We’re still new, but we’ve gone a few steps down the road.  If you need help or have questions, you know where to call.

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8 Comments
  1. pakea permalink

    Good thought provoking remarks.

  2. Tamer Draz permalink

    Inline with what you labelled “Customer Buying Experiance”, we can build a Knowledge Based System to be nominated as “Customer Knowledge Management” (CKM). This so called system should comprise knowledge ABOUT customers, knowledge FOR customers and knowledge FROM customers. The later “knowledge from customer” should be the mainstay/cornerstone for designing the future of buying.

    • Tamer, thanks for your comment! I think you have raised an interesting issue, how do we manage and share information both within our enterprise and across enterprises with customers, suppliers, and partners. If collaboration is going to be a key aspect of the new customer buying experience, then sharing information and knowledge will be critical! Thanks for the insight.

      (It hardly seems that it’s been over a year since we met in Cairo, Hope you are doing well!)

  3. The Future of Buying — Brilliant… I like it a lot and you are right it is a better point of view.

    Having been in sales for the last 20 years, I have seen my role changed from Product Rep to Solution Rep, to Consultative Selling to Trusted Advisor (just to name a few) and now with the proliferation of social media, wikis, blogs, forums and the likes, it clearly puts the CORPORATE buyer in the driver seat with providing him/her with the same kind of tools only enjoyed previously in a B2C model … with the consumerization of IT and tools the corporate buyers now have access to the same kind of tools we all enjoyed as buyers/consumers.

    My two cents.

    Francine
    Business Development Executive
    CSC Global Business Solutions

    • Francine, thanks so much for your comment. As you outline, there are a number of forces converging which dramatically change the way buyers and sellers interact. It’s a tremendous opportunity to do something that is game changing. I think one of the core areas in this game change will be one of your and my favorite topics—collaboration.

      Thanks for your comment, keep visiting, your views are always valuable and help me learn more.

  4. Rajat Goel permalink

    Great thoughts!!! One thing which got cleared to me by your blog is if Customers got huge range of options then the connecting factor with a customer would be where he/she feels a mutual relationship while buying. In B2C model, in country like India, I believe that the buying experience makes a lot of diffrence. Here people like brands, but they like exciting brands, that excitement should be there while buying too, not just in advertising.

    In B2B model, as in semiconductor industry, we need to be like a business partner to our customers. The engineering team should be sensitized with customer’s requirements, so that the final product makes the customer feel that, its been made for him to succeed in the markets.. thats what I will call “A great customer buying experience”

    How a customer buys a phone is different fom how he buys a car, but can the experience in both the cases help a real estate guy to know how he can sell a house to this customer?? Can sharing customer experience across industry help to understand how to make customer buying experience better??

    • Thanks for the comment Rajat, you cover a lot of ground. The buying experience will be different from industry to industry, and even from customer to customer. I do think we can learn a lot by looking at different buying experiences and what organizations are doing in industries that differ from ours. We can see a lot of fresh approaches and ideas–while they may not apply directly to our business, they create ideas for us to innovate and test in our own businesses and customers.

      Using a couple of your examples, we have worked with organizations in the semiconductor industry and looked at the high fashion industry—we found some interesting things that were done in the high fashion industry that we were able to adapt and apply in unique ways in our clients’ businesses. Without looking outside of their industry, it would have been difficult for them to have gained those insights. Thanks for joining the discussion!

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