Wake Up! The Paradigm Has Shifted!
There have been some interesting comments about my post, If You Are Learning Your Customers’ Needs You Are Too Late. Both Andy Rudin and Tony Zambito had great insights at Sales Edge One. The discussion made me realize how too many sales people and managers are caught in an old paradigm. We were trained in: Find a customer that has a problem they want to solve, understand their needs and requirements, propose a solution, make sure the value proposition is differentiated.
That paradigm is changing rapidly. Customers are disintermediating sales from their process. One they recognize they have a problem and want to solve it, they are leveraging web-based resources to self educate. We see survey after survey stating customers don’t want to see sales people until much later in the process. We read these facts every day, we customers not willing to see us, yet we continue to focus on the same things—-find a customer with a problem, determine their needs……….
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome. The paradigm has shifted, customers have driven that shift. It’s insane to continue to do things the same way we have in the past. It’s critical to look at a new engagement model, to be able to engage our customers in a different manner. We have to change or become obsolete–diminishing the value we create for our customers, as well as reducing our competitiveness.
Where can we make a difference for our customers? What is the new paradigm? How do we more appropriately engage our customers? There are differing strategies, the best depends on your overall business strategies and the customer buying experiences you want to create.
If we are compete in a transactional market place, then we have to focus on making the customer buying process as easy or hassle free as possible. We have to focus on reducing the cost of acquisition. This means providing rich content that’s easy to find and consume by the customer. Content that answers every issue the customer might have in evaluating alternatives, and makes it easy for them to get the information they need. When they contact us, we need to focus on being easy and efficient to do business with. Fast, painless transactions focused on reducing their cost of procurement, perhaps addressing logistics management issues. Speed of response, ease of buying, contracting, and fulfillment become critical. Buyers don’t want to get into drawn out discovery discussions with sales people. They know what they want to buy, they just want to get on with the procurement.
Alternatively, we can engage earlier, we can focus on providing insight–getting the customer to think about their businesses differently, helping them recognize new opportunities. We can teach them, engage them in a discovery process. Long before they recognize they have a problem and started to determine their needs, we start getting them to think about new possibilities. Once we get them to recognize the need to change, we can help them organize to define what they want to do, define their process, align buying interests within their organizations, and to start prioritizing their needs. This approach changes how we market, how we leverage content, the skills required in our organization and the value that we try to create for our customers.
There is no right answer to how to engage customers who are changing the way they buy. However, it’s important to recognize there is a wrong answer, doing nothing, sticking to the old methods and approaches, not recognizing that our customers are changing the way they buy–demanding we change the way we sell is critical to growth and success.For a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link. You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters. Free Sample