Knowledge is power—this has been acknowledged for years. Let’s assume that’s correct.
Many people leap from this statement to saying, the customer has all the power in the buying process. After all, they are at least 57% through their buying process, perhaps according to some research they are as much as 90% through the process before they even get sales involved.
They’ve done their digital research and education, they’ve narrowed their selection down to a short list of about 3 alternatives. They have self educated and have “knowledge” of their requirements and the ability of the solution to meet their needs. Each of which will probably meet their needs.
Clearly the advantage is with the customer. In this case, it’s pretty difficult to compete if they feel any of the 3 solutions will meet their requirements, you probably win on price.
But let’s dive into this a little. All they know is what they know–which doesn’t mean they have the knowledge critical to solving their problem and achieving their goals.
But there are huge gaps in critical knowledge.
For example, the knowledge they have acquired is what they have learned from the various websites–yours, your competitors, maybe discussion groups or other third party opinion. Maybe they’ve even spoken to users of the solutions they are considering to understand their experiences of the solutions. They’ve acquired a lot of data and information, but they are missing some that is critical to their own success. That is, what does it mean to them specifically. For example, what are the implementation and ongoing use issues? What are the things they must do to be successful? What are the things critical to managing the change effort? What is different and unique about them–but critical to their success?
These are critical knowledge gaps that are difficult to fill through self education and where the knowledge of a sales person who has experience in the implementation of these solutions can be important.
They only know what they know–but are they asking the right questions? Are they looking at the right issues?
When you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s a critical knowledge gap–something virtually impossible for the customer to fill on their own. Certainly, with lots of research, time and investment, they might be able to reduce this. But do they have they have the time and are they willing to invest that time? Can they afford to invest the time–yet can they afford not to? Again, the knowledge and experience of the sales person can short cut the process and fill critical gaps in areas they don’t know but need to know.
Of course, there are the challenges of organizing to buy and the buying process. The complex task of aligning diverse agendas, priorities, and goals across the group. The job of defining what the group wants to achieve, how they will do it, who needs to be involved, how to get organizational support…….. Unless our customers are buying similar solutions every day, unless they are engaged in similar change initiatives every day, they don’t know how to do this. The data is very clear on this challenge–the majority of buying decisions end in no decision made.
What about those customers who don’t even recognize the opportunity? Perhaps they are buried in the day to day operations of their organizations. Perhaps they are unaware of opportunities they may be missing, or that there are better ways to do things. Clearly they are lacking a certain level of knowledge about how they grow their business.
Knowledge is power. But there are critical gaps in our customers’ knowledge–things that are very difficult to do without the help of a sales person.
The sales person can be a critical source of knowledge to the customer in the buying process. The sales person can be important in helping the customer fill their knowledge gaps.
But, reread this article up to this point. In each of the areas I’ve discussed, the critical elements of knowledge and knowledge gaps are focused on their business–the problems/opportunities they face, managing the change successfully, aligning the interests and buying process of the team, making a decision and successfully implementing a solution.
Knowledge is power–we just have to have the right knowledge to help our customers to be able to exploit the power we bring to our customers.
The key question from a sales point of view, do you have the right knowledge? Do you understand your customers’ businesses, their challenges, the challenges of managing change and producing results from that change. This knowledge is critical to our customers and represents your power in working with them.
Knowledge–the right knowledge IS power.