As consumers, everyday we see apps, great on-line stores and other technology enabled experiences that make our buying experiences easier and often more pleasant. It’s so much easier to check out reviews–even if they are from strangers, then to deal with a sales person. It’s harder to find them in retail stores, when you do, they may not be able to answer your questions, but they are always asking about “ringing the sale up at the cash register.”
This phenomena isn’t limited to B2C, we see more of the same things happening in B2B. We already know that more than 67% of B2B buyers journey is completed digitally, as part of the buying process. We know that buyers may be 57-70% through their buying process before engaging sales. Undoubtedly this will only increase–both as buyers become more comfortable with digital resources and as the capability of the tools and technology enrich their buying experience.
Sounds dire! It’s difficult to compete with an app! They are always available, they always “know the answer,” to customers, they are a great relief from sales people. It goes even further, the apps increasingly “know me,” they seem to have some sort of relationship with me. Amazon, knows what I like to read and always pulls up great recommendations. Now they know other things I like and send me emails about events happening locally that I might like to go to (check out Amazon Local, if you haven’t experienced it.). I rely heavily on apps to help me on my iPhone or iPad. They rarely let me down. In some sense they are developing “trusted relationships” with me.
So am I proclaiming the death of sales? Well, for those sales people who can’t create a better customer buying experience and greater value through that process–Yes! Look for a new job, run, don’t walk away from selling if the app/technology engages the customer more effectively and creates greater value than you do.
But is it really all that dire–absolutely not. There is too much research and evidence the sales person is the differentiator. The CEB shows data indicating 53% of buyer’s decisions/loyalty is based on their buying experience–that’s the difference sales makes! The folks at Rain Group have studies showing high performing sales people are the differentiators.
Buying is tough! Remember, buying involves far more than selecting a solution or vendor. Customers struggle with buying, they don’t know how to buy, they don’t know how to organize and align disparate interests and priorities in their own organizations. Sales people create huge value by facilitating the customer buying process.
But it goes further. Top sales professionals understand their customers’ businesses deeply. They identify opportunities for the customer to improve, grow, improve their own competitiveness and the value they create for their sales people. Great sales professionals engage their customers in deep conversations about their businesses. They provoke, Challenge, provide Insights, collaborate, consult, help manage the change. Through this whole process, they construct value, driving profound improvements for the customers.
As sales professionals, our differentiation, the reason customers want us–need us, is the value we create and construct with them. It’s our ability to help them understand and commit to change, the ability to help them manage both the decision/buying process and implementation of that change.
For the time being, at least, no app can do this.
But there’s even more. These top performers are always learning, innovating, changing. Not only in what they provide their customers but in redefining what high performance sales is about–so the app can only play “catch up.”
What are you doing? Are you creating value for your customers, are you helping them re-define and grow their businesses? Are you helping them innovate, grow, and improve?
Or are you replaceable by an App?
Thanks to Seth Godin for the inspiration of this post: Even Better Than An App