Recently, I had a discussion with someone, actually a polite disagreement. I was advocating, “Disrupting customers’ thinking, getting them to recognize new opportunities, inciting them to change and buy.”
This thoughtful individual, was upset with my position. Among other things, he made the statement, “Customers won’t buy until they are ready to buy. We have to wait for them, then be prepared to work with them in their buying process.”
He’s absolutely right, customers will never buy until they are ready to buy. But his statement made me think of the old Maytag Repairman commercials. They were bored on their jobs because the machines never broke, they sat in their offices waiting for a call.
But, he’s missing a key concept. We, sales and marketing, have a huge impact on influencing and shaping the customer’s readiness and desire to buy. In fact, if all we do is wait for the customer to be ready to buy, we are doing them a disservice, and adding little value–basically becoming order takers.
Let’s take some “larger than life examples,” of disrupting customer thinking and inciting them to buy. I’ll circle back, to how we, individually, can incite our customers to buy.
Take ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft. There was no inherent need for customers to buy a ride sharing service, taxis, public transportation were serving the need. But the ride sharing services caused people to re imagine how they got around and what they could do. It incited them to look at getting around differently and incited them to buy. It changed behavior in another way, by helping people imagine new possibilities. For example, I normally drive my car to the airport and park it (It actually spends more time at the airport than in my garage.) Now, because of the convenience and comparable costs, I often take Uber or Lyft to the airport. (My car’s upset because all its friends are at a certain section of the LAX parking lot.).
Likewise, we can take many of the tools we take for granted, CRM, Sales/Marketing Automation, ERP, Financial Systems, and more. Every company had methods to manage customer information, sales/marketing programs, etc, but these tools incited new ways to think about those functions and change. Customers recognized the need to change, they started envisioning their businesses differently. We incited them to buy.
Bringing this from very broad examples to how we behave and must engage our customers every day, typically the majority of our potential customers have no need to buy. After all, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Sure, there are buying opportunities when something breaks, or when the customer runs out of something they need (say parts, staples, pads of paper, coffee.).
But the real opportunity to serve our customers, to create differentiated value, is not to wait until they have a need to buy, but rather to incite that need to buy.
Sales people are really agents of change. Our job is to help our customers find opportunities to re-imagine their jobs, their functions, their businesses. Our job is to help them realize there are new opportunities or better ways to achieve their goals/serve their customers.
Whether it’s a better way to run their manufacturing lines, a better way to design their products, a financial system that enables them to better manage and control the business, a component or embedded part that enables them to provide new functionality in their products, a new method that enables them to reduce their costs, or to improve their quality.
Until a customer recognizes the need to change, they will never start a buying journey. If we wait until they are ready to buy, then we may have a very long wait.
Sure, very often, customers incite themselves to change. Perhaps something’s broken, perhaps they attended a conference, perhaps as they were cruising the web, they got an idea.
But what about all those that should change, but don’t recognize the need or opportunity to. Not because they are clueless of oblivious, just because they don’t know or they’re too busy with what they are doing every day.
The mistake many of us make in thinking about marketing’s role in creating web sites, programs, content, is that until people start looking, until people start asking themselves, “Is there something we’re missing,” they won’t pay attention.
If they are driving and a billboard with a solution that solves their problem is right in front of them, but they don’t realize they have the problem, they will do nothing. If a perfectly constructed email or a brilliant white paper is sitting in their inbox, until they start looking, they will never see it.
Sales people have a responsibility to their customers and to their companies to get people to start to look, to get people to want to change, to give them a kick start on their buying journey.
Our customers will not buy before their ready to buy. But we do them a disservice by waiting for that point. We need to incite them to start their buying journey, then be there when they are ready to buy.