It used to be the sales rep who was holding all the cards, they held all the information and fed it to you in half-truths and partial facts to suit their need to close fast. Today though you are facing a different customer, they are more informed, know what their problem is and they know what they need to solve it. Sadly though, too many companies have neglected this new behaviour in their sales process.
In 2016 I wanted to buy a second hand, Ford Ranger, massive I know, but I knew I needed my new vehicle to fulfil a number of criteria. It needed enough grunt to pull a horse box, it had to be a pickup for my husband’s ‘man stuff’ projects, I needed seats for passengers and finally, it had to have heated seats (horses and cold bums are a daily struggle).
With a life time interest in cars, I knew what I wanted and I had done my research, I found a dealership that had some, went out to them. I was met by a cliche salesman – bleached blonde long hair, slicked over a balding head and a slightly too big grey suit.
I asked him if he had any Ford Rangers in stock, I wanted to test drive one and see if they had something in good condition with suitable mileage.
- His response – “A Ranger! Oh, Your must mean the Kuga, something as pretty as you to bring all the kiddos to school in?”
- What I heard – “Stupid woman with your boobs in the way of your small brain! You want a soccer mom SUV for your 200 kiddies that you just keep popping out at the kitchen sink while in your apron. I’m also gonna call you pretty so you swoon at my male prowess and Brylcreemed hair.”
- My response – “Thanks for your misogynistic observations, I’ll go to a better dealership” and I walked out.
How Sales Has Evolved
Thanks to the internet, having information at our fingertips, the sales process has dramatically changed. Before your customer would come to you looking for information, you had the knowledge, spin and the power to guide the customer towards the purchase. Now, however, the ball is in the customer’s court.
By the time the customer comes to you, they are at the end of their journey, they know what their problem is, they know what they need to solve it. They have spent time researching online, reading reviews, looking at comparison sites, chatting online to their wide network of friends and strangers. They are coming to you empowered and are very close to a decision. They may simply be there to feel the product, chat with you online to see if it is available soon or is there any discounts today.
Less About The Sale and More About the Relationship.
Customers expect you to find out about them, their needs and personal experiences so that you understand them. According to Salesforce’s ‘State of the Connected Consumer’ report, 66% of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual.
In 2002 I worked in computer inbound sales, I was the youngest on the Irish team, I was also the least experienced. It was a cutthroat job, the whole environment was target driven, the teams pitched against each other, they were like hungry wolves foaming at the mouth. However, despite being green, In my first month, I broke the sales record and I continued to do this the whole time I was there. While the other team members we’re sweating over ‘impossible’ targets, I was selling so easily, almost every call was a sale and was left wondering what the big deal was.
Unlike everyone else, I ignored the classic sales training they gave us, it didn’t sit well with me. Instead, I would chat with the customer, finding out about them, their family, the ages of their children and what they expected to do with this new PC. They bought form me because they liked and trusted me, I took the time to get to know them, identify their needs and listen to their existing knowledge. It was empathy that made me popular with the clients.
More than three-quarters (76%) of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to work with a salesperson who focuses on achieving customer needs instead of making a quick sale
The importance of getting to understand the customer’s situation, asking questions and guiding them in a trustworthy way is what they want. More than three-quarters (76%) of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important to work with a salesperson who focuses on achieving customer needs instead of making a quick sale – Salesforce. Believe it or not, if you take this strategy you will be more successful and will make even more profit.
Recognise the importance of immediacy in sales.
Businesses like to blame the internet, social media and messaging for the impatient of the consumer, however, I like to blame the new empowering process. Your customer has been researching for days and has finally reached the decision phase, as a result, they are ready to buy, with money in hand. We all know what that final decision moment feels like, excitement, relief, there is a build up of tension. They pose their final questions and… tumbleweed.
Far too often consumers face silence when they need answers – live chat is not available, the email form they fill out get’s no response, their messages on facebook go unanswered.
The guys at Drift, after their own frustrating consumer experience, decided to conduct some research on the speed at which businesses were responding to leads. Only 7% of the 433 companies responded within the first five minutes, more than half did not respond within five business days or in some cases, didn’t respond at all. How many leads are lost in this way? This also follows on from the Micro Moments that I discussed just two weeks ago. Businesses need to be available for the crucial moments that help secure the sale, connect with the customer and be available.
So if you are still a little old school and wondering “what’s wrong with the world today”, it’s time to look at how technology has made the consumer evolve. “Salespeople really need to step up and to be much more consultative and collaborative and advisory.” (Brian Fetherstonhaugh – OgilvyOne). It’s time to recognise that the customer is looking for more from businesses and begin to evolve and adapt too to suit your new environment.