by Joanne S. Black
Welcome to the age of the informed consumer, or the digital buyer … or “Buyer 2.0.”
Once upon a time, in the days before Google, Amazon, Yelp, and social media, clients looked to salespeople for information about our companies, products, and services. Now with a few clicks of a mouse, they can learn all about us–including what people are saying about our companies, how our products and solutions work, and what our competitors offer.
Buyer 2.0 is very good at homework. In fact, 86 percent of business buyers engage in research independent of the sales cycle, according to a 2011 study from Forrester. Before they make contact with us, our buyers have usually checked us out, compared pricing, read a white paper or two, listened to a webinar, and/or viewed a demo. They’ve also researched our competition.
Your Buyer Doesn’t Know It All
It’s been said that today’s consumers are so informed they have usually decided whether to buy before they ever speak to a salesperson. Research from SiriusDecisions shows that 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally. Some take this to mean that our prospects and clients don’t really need us anymore–that the automation of selling has made salespeople irrelevant. Not true!
Tell Them Where It Hurts
When prospects come to us, they have problems that need to be solved–pain that needs addressing. While they know it hurts, they’re often unclear about exactly where the pain is coming from and how to fix it. That’s where salespeople come in. We know our industries; we know our products; and most importantly, we know our clients. So with a little investigating, we can show them exactly where it hurts.
Who’s In Control?
Technology–and all of the information it provides–has made buyers a little … well, cocky. They know what they want (or, at least, think they do), and they want to be in the driver’s seat during the sales process.
Should you let them drive? Yes and no.
While I’m all for empowering customers, Buyer 2.0 isn’t the only one armed with new information-gathering technology. Seller 2.0 has access to all sorts of tech tools that enable us to learn more about our customers–their demographics, interests, needs, and wants. And given our experience, we know exactly how to deliver the value they want in a timely manner and at a price point they can live with.
Technology expedites many tasks, but at the end of the day, clients need us. When you travel by air, you no longer need a person to provide the schedule, sell you a ticket, or issue your boarding pass. You can do all of that online. But you want a human being to greet you on the plane and to ensure there’s a pilot in the cockpit.
This is where a great salesperson really makes a difference. Our clients may already know what we do and how we do it. But that doesn’t mean they know exactly what they need from us, and how to get it most efficiently and cost-effectively. They don’t know the traps to avoid and what doesn’t work. They usually don’t fully understand the commitment needed (from themselves and their teams) to implement solutions that guarantee knock-your-socks-off ROI. But we do.
So go ahead and let your client drive the car. Just make sure you’re there to navigate.
Joanne Black is the founder of No More Cold Calling and was a speaker at the most recent Sales 2.0 Event (the Sales Performance Management Conference), in San Francisco. She is the author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (415) 461-8763.