Sales people used to be a primary source of information for customers. They learned about new approaches to business, they learned about what other similar organizations were doing, they learned about new products and services they might consider through sales people.
Those days are long gone. Customers have far easier ways to learn these things when they are searching. In fact, when they are on a buying journey, less than 17 percent of their time is spent with sales people–all sales people. Their primary sources of learning are from digital and other sources, and from each other.
This should be no surprise. We’ve seen this coming for years. Customers complain about sales people–“They don’t understand me or my business, they only talk about themselves and their products….” Sellers struggle getting meetings with customers, it’s harder and harder to get fewer and fewer meetings.
Corporate executives may react, “Well, as long as they are buying, we’re OK. If they shift to digital channels, we can reduce our investment in selling…..”
But there are lots of problems with that. First is the high failure rate of customer buying journeys, the majority of projects are abandoned. Then, for those that make a decision, there’s the increasing rate of customer remorse. “Have they made the right decision? Could they have made a better choice?” Customer decision confidence–or lack of confidence has become a major issue with those that manage to make a decision.
Some sales people/organizations would shrug this off, thinking, “Well we got the revenue,” but then there’s the tough issue of renewal, retention, growth.
One would think, given these scenarios, there might be a better-different way of doing things, both for our own organizations and for our customers.
After all, it seems like insanity to keep doing the same things, that produce worse and worse results. If something isn’t working, in most other professions, we would figure out what we need to change to make it work. For example, if the manufacturing line starts producing scrap, every self respecting manufacturing executive would stop the line, figure out what was going wrong and fix it. Or developers try a new/different approach.
Yet for some reason, sellers and marketers think, “Let’s just do more….” Or we say, “let’s leverage technology,” which focuses more on our ability to do more of the same at ever increasing velocities.
We do see sellers who are being successful–they’ve figured they need to do things differently. They recognize their engagement process works when they put the customer first. They recognize, despite the alternative channels of information, customers still value sellers who are helpful.
These sellers know the information customers most value has little to do with product capabilities and more to do with them and their businesses. What is changing that may impact them? Are there new opportunities they might address? Are there ways to be more effective? How do they make sense of the increasing complexity they face? How do they have confidence they have made the right decision–not on the product they have chosen, but that they have made good business decisions.
It turns out customers do need sales people, they value sales people that help them grow and improve.
The problem is, despite seeing this and knowing this, we go back to the same bad habits. We ignore the opportunityt our customers present us to more effectively help them.