Making more sales quickly today is no longer about selling. It’s all about getting customers to make a buy decision. Customers are more in control of their buying decisions than ever before, with the wealth of alternatives and information available online, and interactive access to sources they trust via social media. They don’t want to be pushed into a sale, but they love to be pulled in by what is important to them.
Thus, it is critical for sales and marketing people to spend more time understanding what motivates their customer decisions today and less time pushing for a fast close. It means more focus on the customer buying process rather than the customer selling process. Here are some specifics I recommend to accomplish this.
- Get the view from the customer early by talking to real people. With interactive social media and customers anxious to provide input, companies no longer need expensive customer panels and market research to get a true customer perspective. It’s important to do this early and continuously, since needs and motivations change quickly.
- Structure your sales process based on customer buying steps. Replace your sales process steps with customer action steps. Continually drive for more specifics on the steps customers follow, such as seeking friend recommendations, scanning for good reviews and checking impact on the environment. Tune your sales process to address each of these.
- Make selling collaborative rather than the domain of a single sales person. With today’s online tools, let the customer see and hear from your support organization, marketing and top executives. The customer needs to feel like he is joining a team who has his back rather than negotiating a special deal. Make every sale a win-win outcome.
- Identify specific decision points and demographics of the buyer. Individual buyer demographics can no longer be generic titles, such as mother, owner or organization. With today’s analytics, you can -- and need -- to look deeper at each customer for culture, age, lifestyle and buyer-experience expectations. Selling to the wrong profile loses sales.
- Identify the key relationships behind the customer buy decision. Trusted advisor connections and personal relationships often outweigh price and feature comparisons. This is true even with corporate executives, as well as individual consumer decisions. These relationships may be from support groups, online influencers or industry experts.
- Forecast lead closure rates based on customer buying steps completed. Sales projections based on sales steps completed puts the focus on the wrong equation. Closing sales requires an understanding of how to get the customer to move to the next step in his buying process. Where this need is not met should be a new marketing task.
Another way to speed up the customer buying process and improve your credibility is to know your customer so well that you can effectively address potential objections before they are even raised. This includes recognizing that you have competition, and using the competitor offering to highlight your advantages. It’s never a good thing to denigrate your competition.
Also, don’t forget to follow-up with and nurture existing customers. In today’s open communication environment, every satisfied customer can bring you four to six new ones quickly with credibility already established and without any selling. In addition, the cross-selling and up-selling opportunities can be far more lucrative than a sole focus on new customer acquisition.
Overall, the key is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and lead them through their own buying decision process. Most customers don’t mind being led, if they are convinced that you are a leader rather than a pusher. It’s important that you listen to their needs before charging down a specific path. Nobody trusts someone who has all the answers before they know the question.