Are you order, seller, or buyer centric?
Sadly, too many are focused only on the order. In this world, the ideal thing is the customer has educated themselves, is knowledgeable, may have a few final questions and issues (price is always the key one), and the customer makes a buying decision. We do everything we can to position our products favorably, but the reality is the customer has probably made up their mind. The good news, is if they are talking to you, they are probably favoring you, and as long as you answer their remaining questions well, you will probably get the order.
It’s very efficient. It doesn’t require us to understand the customer, at least not deeply. It just requires us to manage the end of their buying process efficiently.
Unfortunately, we’ve created no value in being order centric, but in truth, we probably don’t care, we are driven by getting the order. Every interaction with the customer is a transaction. We win some, we lose some (probably more than we win).
We hit our quotas by making sure we have the right number of orders.
Some are seller centric. This is a little more complex than being order centric. Likewise, we are focused on getting the order. But the customer may be less familiar with our products. We engage them in discovery that looks like, “What capabilities are you looking for in a solution? What are you looking for in a supplier relationship? What alternatives are you looking at?” The answers to these questions enable us to better position our product and our company over the alternatives, hoping to convince them to choose us.
But the seller centric approach focuses on what we need to demonstrate to be chosen. It is limited in the value it creates, because it’s focus is on us. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be seller centric–the customer can learn all about our solutions, our capabilities, and how to compare them to the alternatives, through other channels. Increasingly, buyers are choosing rep-free buying experiences.
But in more complicated areas, for example where there are specific implementation or configuration challenges, the seller provides value in helping tailor the solution to the customer’s needs.
Buyer centricity, starts in a very different place than order or seller centric sellers. In the latter two cases, the focus is on achieving our objectives. In a buyer centric approach, we are also focused on achieving our objectives, but we recognize the only way we do this, is through the customer achieving theirs.
As a result, we focus on the buyer. We focus on the problem they are trying to solve, the opportunity they want to address, the change they are compelled to make. Our focus is on what they are trying to achieve–and many times, because they have never faced this situation before (or for many years), they have a lot to learn–not about products, but about themselves, what they want to achieve, why it’s important to them, what the consequences of not acting are, what the risks both of action and inaction might be. Our focus is on them and their process, who they need to involve, how they align differing goals/agendas, how they reach consensus on what they are trying to achieve. Since they have never or seldom faced this issue, we help them through their buying process, helping them learn, helping them move forward to making a decision.
We create huge value in this process, we are bringing skills and capabilities to complement and support the customer in achieving their goals. As a part of this, we become intimately involved with the fears, hopes, dreams and concerns of each member of the group and the group as a whole.
We become a close partner to the customer in this process, achieving our goals, only when they achieve their goals.
There is commonality between being order, seller, and buyer centric. We each want to win/earn business, but the means through which we do this, and how we engage our customers is very different.
All three approaches are legitimate approaches—within the context where they apply. For highly knowledgeable buyers, making low risk decisions, and order centric approach is great. In fact, we would slow the customer and alienate them if we tried to have a buyer centric approach.
A seller centric approach requires the buyer to be comfortable with managing the problem definition/solving process themselves. Our primary focus is on demonstrating solution fit and differentiation.
And the buyer centric approach requires deeper understanding of the industries, markets, our customers’ businesses, and the specific problems they face–that we are the best in the world at solving. Just as a buyer centric approach is wrong if the customer is deeply knowledgeable and just wants to order the right product. Order or Seller centric approaches don’t provide the support the customer needs to solve their problem. It’s easy to understand why customers would choose a a rep-free buying experience if our engagement strategies are order or seller centric.
But there’s more–I’ll taunt you, but not go into them deeply.
The buyer’s are not really on a buying journey, they are on a problem/opportunity solving journey. We create much greater value by not being buyer centric, but expanding our view to be more helpful in their problems/opportunities.
Likewise, the next level up is to incite customers to search, to have them begin to think, “There may be a better, or different, way of doing things.” Inciting people to search, getting them to think differently, helping them to recognize there may be a problem or an opportunity and start that process of considering change represents a much higher level of engagement and value creation.