Elvis Has Left the Building: Why Your Customers are Walking Away
It would be a rare day that CEOs and business owners aren’t looking to their sales force to drive revenue growth via customer acquisition and retention. At the same time, it is no secret that customer purchasing behaviour has shifted radically and changed the rules of engagement for most companies.
Only last year, Harvard Business Review published a provocative paper calling for traditional sales machines to be dismantled. The process-driven sales team is no longer delivering customers. The reason being that customers are now building quite a different relationship with their suppliers, and one which defies process and demands agility, intuition and a solutions focus.
The “new” customer doesn’t want to deal with you
And the biggest shock to the system? These new buyers don’t want to interact with you. They want research, knowledge, testimonials and referrals.
Whereas previously customers relied on suppliers for their information, they now have a multitude of avenues and channels from which they can source data and opinion about your company, products and services.
Your buyers are closer to your business than ever before – in fact, just one click away. Ironically, however, they are now less interested than ever in having a direct relationship with you, and particularly in the early stages of the buying process.
Your buyers are demonstrating, with every visit to your website, that they don’t want to talk directly to you about their purchase requirements until they are ready to make a decision.
Evidence from a number of industries indicates that buyers will be up to 70% of the way through their research and decision-making before they want to deal with a sales rep.
So how do you keep prospects interested and engaged, even if they’re not willing to talk to you?
Throw out the old sales formula
Now is the time to take the traditional cookie-cutter approach to sales and consign it to the dustbin.
A sales formula based on measures like close and conversion rates, acquisition costs and quantity of sales calls is not going to bring the “new buyer” closer to your business.
By the time a customer engages with your sales team, you can assume they are already quite knowledgeable about your business offerings. Success is more likely to come with an agile sales approach that provokes the customer with insightful and disruptive questions to understand their need.
This leaves no room to revert to the age-old practice of competing just on price and product specs. An insights-selling approach instead enables your sales team to adjust the process according to an understanding of what the customer is seeking.
What colour socks is your customer wearing?
The answers to three critical questions will provide you with the data to build an insights-based sales approach to deliver new customers:
Who is your customer
What does he/she need?
Why will he/she buy it from you?
Use this information to arm your sales team with buying insights that allow them to collaborate with – not just sell to! – your customers. Bridge the gap, if you like, between the enlightened customer and the enlightened supplier.
“The trend among smart companies is moving from competition to collaboration, from “me” to “we”. They are involving everyone across their business to be meaningfully connected in some way to their customers.” (BRW: “12 key sales trends for 2014: meet the enlightened seller”, 18.12.13)
We are encouraging businesses to walk away from the tactical sales plans that are only delivering today’s revenue, and build strong collaboration between their customers, products/services, and delivery. In the new world order of customer buying, an agile sales team that engages knowledgeably with potential buyers, will deliver not just on today’s tactical revenues, but tomorrow’s strategic revenues.