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Our Customers Are Doing Their Homework

by David Brock on April 15th, 2018

Every three years, I go through the same cycle.  My car lease comes to an end.  Every three years, the same thing happens; about 6 months before the lease end, the dealer(s) start to contact me.  It’s always with an offer, “We can let you out of the lease early and get you into the latest model of your current car…..”

I’ve just gotten into that 6 month window.  I’ve gotten two outreaches, the first from the dealer I bought the car from, the second from a deal where I happened to have the car serviced once.  Both had the same offer, I could get into the new car at the same payment that I made for the previous car.

Curious, I went to both dealership web sites, I stumbled on their “Current Deals.”  Each of them had deals on the same care they were offering me at a significantly lower price.  When I emailed them back, I asked, “Why are you offering me, a loyal customer, a price that is much higher than what you are offering anyone who happens to look at your web site?”  Each appeared to be stunned, neither took the opportunity to ask, “Well would you be interested at that price?”

This post isn’t beating up on car sales people, it’s just a convenient example of stupid assumptions too many sales people make about customers.

Customers do their homework!  Before they contact sales people they are doing research.  If for some reason, they haven’t, after you contact them, they do their research.

There are two points to the rest of this post.  First, we have to know customers are self educating and have some levels of knowledge about our companies and products.  Second, if our customers are taking the time to research, why don’t we?

Let’s dive into the first.  Survey after survey tells us customers are self educating.  The latest CSO Insights research show that sales people are the 9th priority on the list of customer preferences to learn about products and solutions.  Industry experts, SMEs, past experience, vendor websites, conferences/trade shows, peers/colleagues, online forums, publications and web searches take precedence over learning from sales people.

CEB research goes further, their research indicates customer leverage many of these channels through their entire buying process.

Yet, too often, sales people ignore this.  Sales people talk about the same things customers are learning through other sources–offering no additional value or insight on that data.  Sales people regurgitate data sheets, product specs or the same information that the customer has already found on line.  Or worse, as in the case of these dealers, they offer information that is in conflict with what the customer has found on line, creating confusion with the customer.

If all we do is provide the same information the customer can find through other sources, we aren’t creating value for them or a reason for them to want to engage us.

To be effective, we have to go beyond what they can learn from other sources.  We have to assume they have done their homework and engage them in the things they can’t learn or easily understand though other sources.

Second, if customers are doing their homework on our products and companies, doesn’t it make sense that we do our homework on them and their companies?

I’ve written about this many times, so I won’t belabor the point, but very few people prospecting me know anything about me, our company, or what we do.  I can tell from the conversations, they are neither on my LinkedIn page or at our company websites.  They, clearly, haven’t done their homework.

Just as there are rich resources for customer to research and educate themselves about our offerings and capabilities, there are many resources for us to learn about them and their companies.  These resources enable us to be well prepared.  They enable us to identify the potential issues that may be important to them, or how to more effectively engage them.

Our customers have moved on in how they buy and how they learn about our products/solutions.  They do their homework.

Isn’t it about time that we did ours?

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