While we are firmly entrenched in the era of customer power, that does not mean that customer’s don’t need, and want, help and guidance.
Information is everywhere. And that is wonderful. This means that customers can easily find detailed information, reviews, and recommendations on a wide range of topics without a lot of effort. They no longer need to rely on marketing or sales people to educate them about specific products and services. And a recent Gartner survey verified that they prefer this self-guided model in their quest for infomration.
Information is everwhere. And that is scary. Iit is next to impossible to know if you are researching the right things, finding the right information, or if the information is accurate (in many cases). Do others feel like I do and wonder, almost on a daily basis, if they are missing something important? You leave your desk for 30 minutes and wonder how much you missed on Twitter, in your RSS feeds, in LinkedIn, etc.
And that is a key opportunity for sales in the era of customer power. Rather than spending your time with traditional activities, it is time to shift the focus. You are no longer responsible for managing information delivery to buyers as you work with them toward a purchase decision. Instead, your role is filter, advise, suggest, and provide access to additional resources and insights.
The new role for sales is that of a guide. As customers wade through a morass of information—some clear, some confusing, some hidden from view—you, and your company, need to be there to help them find the right path to address their questions and concerns. Do that, and you will be a highly valued asset. Buyers do want to interact directly with you–but only if you deliver added value.
How do you do this? It is not that hard. And, it is not that different from how great sales reps behaved in the past:
- Suggest a need/opportunity that the customer may not know they have
- Present compelling evidence from a variety of sources , not just your company, about key issues and the potential value of addressing it
- Guide the customer through their buying journey, helping them find and assemble the right type of information to get buy-in, refute objections, and make progress
- Link the need to your company’s solutions to provide a compelling reason to buy from you (versus others)
- Provide access to key technical and industry resources in your organization to build trust beyond your products
For some, this may be business as usual. But for many, it requires a different way of thinking—one that is more customer centric than product centric. It also means that your qualification approach may need to change. How does someone budget for something they don’t understand? If budget exists, can you shift the opportunity using the same technique to put yourself in a better position. How do you uncover what the buyer has done on their own, so you don’t rehash old information (to them), instead building on their existing knowledge with additional insights, ideas, and clarifications.
Here is why we talk about it as a guide. Think of any tour you have been on anywhere in the world. I’d be willing to bet that the most memorable tours were led by a great tour guide–one who pointed out things you did not know (and could not read in the guide book), helped you avoid detours that would prove to be a waste of time, participated with you in activities, and that, by the end, had engaged with you emotionally. That is the experience you are looking to deliver.
Sales Reps that shift their behavior to act as expert guides for their customers will be invaluable. Customers will go from feeling overwhelmed and uncertain to being confident and informed. Their business will come with that.
This is just one aspect of how sales is changing. Gartner is covering the changing landscape of IT Sales in a Special Report, which is highlighted here. The report includes a wide variety of research notes (subscription required) from a variety of Gartner analysts. The page linked above also provides access to video and audio commentary that examines the sellers’ dilemma and what steps Techology Providers can take to evolve their sales strategy.
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