Marketing systems that generate guaranteed sales results (II)
I hear more and more people complaining how difficult it is to sell. I stopped and wandered, why is it so difficult for us to sell, me included? Because I do not know how to sell, I know very well how to buy, and I can easily spot how everyone else around me is buying; it is seldom that I see a closed sale in which the customer was sold, and more than often when it’s so clear that the customer actually bought.
I even went through sales processes and trainings, in the hope that this would make me a good sales person… but most of them solve some small problems, and some of them were good in guiding me to identify how customers buy. Somewhere along these lines, I understood that the best sales people never really sell, most of them help the customers buy. There are many steps to this process and we will approach them one by one to better understand that is the role of marketing in encouraging customers to buy.
One of the first steps in this process is identifying how your customers buy today. How else will you be able to help them buy?
In b2c that’s easier; you can have research studies, questionnaires, customer profiling and all sorts of tools, based on cold fact data. So you can map out this buyer behavior. How about in b2b? Well, as usual, you are on no man’s land. You can of course go through the same process as in B2C, and that will work, but it time and effort consuming, and the results are not guaranteed to be objective to your purpose. As I already accustomed you in this blog, I will take a step further and dare to throw in an alternative process, or shortcut to identifying buyer behavior.
First of all ASK! Yes, ask your customers and your potential customers. Use some of the questions below or make up your own questions, but always ask them. Do not try to put in any of your own opinions; even if you have a best intention, even if you come from the same field as they are in right now, even if you are a customer yourself for similar services, ask them, do not answer this only by yourself.
What’s their motivation to buy?
Do they have a strong reason to buy your product or service? This could be a legal or 3rd party enforced, it could be salving a critical problem or improving dramatically some part of the business, it could be a certain market shift or competition increase, the need to perform savings or improve operations and many more. Please make sure that the buying reason is stated in terms of specific requirements, activities, problems etc and not general terms.
Who is the decision maker in the buying process?
Whom within the customer organization has the decision making power; who signs the contract? This is the person that buys, not anybody ales. If he buys from you or if he buys from someone within his own organization that you actually sold too… well that should provide you with some food for thought.
Who influences the purchase?
Who advises the decision maker, who approves the purchase before it gets to be signed, who provides the information for the decision making, who has more power to advice or influence? This is usually either specific hierarchy within a certain business function, or the advisory group to the decision maker.
What’s the criteria for selecting from different alternatives?
Is it the brand, the references and background, the skills or the direct endorsements and social networking the bases of your customer’s criteria for selecting a provider?
Is there actually a process for purchase?
Many times you’ll get an excuse that your offer did not got through to the purchase process. Well, as I said, that’s merely an excuse. Somewhere along the decision making chain someone did not wanted to buy. Find out this and help that person buy in your offerings. Purchase processes are good corporate excuses for the smart sales people that don’t take no for an answer.
When and where are they buying?
You can expand on this point as much as you want. Usually customers buy everywhere, from a social gathering to a billboard when walking by the street, they buy. So it’s a matter of being present where they are. If you did your segmentation correctly you already know where your customers are. Are you there yet? And I don’t just mean with advertising, but actually being there, getting involved in their association, supporting their efforts for a new government ruling in their sector and many, many more ways in which you can get involved to be present and be seen, so that you can be easily reached.
How do you stand from the crowd?
I already mentioned that if you are where your competition is, you are waisting your time. We’ll discuss some more on this point in the next post on positioning and differentiation, but for now it has to be clear, you have to be where no one else has gone before to have a winning long-term strategy. If you are where your competition is, the battle is on price and with that game, you and your competition will be buried alive… there’s no winners in this game.
Is it easy for your customers to know and reach you in the first place?
Some companies make it very difficult for their clients to reach them. Are you everywhere where your customer might be looking for services and products that you provide? Not where you think they are looking.. .this is the catch… where they are actually looking. Do you know where your customer is looking? Did you asked?
This is a simple list of question that will give you a lot to work on in understanding how your customer is actually buying. Be their purchase advisor, recommend something better if you truly think it’s just and you’ll get more business opportunities recommended after this than if you sold an account that you know you cannot execute at your best.
Find out what your customer is willing to buy and help him buy that… eventually from you.
There’s much theory around this, but I am sticking to this simplified model of understanding how customers buy. It served many companies well so far. Let me know how it helped you.