What differentiates us from our competition? Not a lot. Let’s look at that in detail.
- Product similarity: Our products are pretty similar at this point. While we can recite chapter, line, and verse how our offering differs, the client hears similar stories from all vendors. They just want to get a business problem resolved in a way that causes the least disruption to their system.
- Customer Service: We’ve all been taught to ‘make nice’ and give customers ‘good’ service. What that means is idiosyncratic to the situation and the company. And we certainly don’t know how that translates to the customer. I recently cancelled my phone service with Time Warner and went back to ATT, scheduling an appointment for a date after I’d returned from Europe. When I was out of the country, it seems they decided to give me ‘better service’ and come out to turn on new service 8 days before the scheduled appointment (when I was out of the country) and they turned off my phone service, leaving me without a business phone until we could straighten out the mess days later – which I had to manage from Scotland. Often, the definition of ‘customer service’ is defined to meet the capability of the seller – not the true need of the buyer.
- Face-to-face meetings: Sales makes the faulty assumption that if the buyer has a ‘relationship’ with the seller, or at least ‘likes’ the seller, that there is a greater propensity for a sale. Obviously that is flawed, or we’d all close a lot more sales. Indeed, all of the competition is doing the same thing.
HOW DO WE OFFER A NEW CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?
Basically, net net, we are all doing the same thing: discovering needs, creating a relationship, making nice, having a good product that we pitch well, marketing and branding as appropriate. It’s sales.
But if we go outside the model, and consider the real issues buyers face, we can add a new viewpoint to the problem. Since buyers must go off-line and garner buy-in from their people, policies, relationships, initiatives and vendors BEFORE they can make a purchasing decision, why not help them do that first – and THEN sell our product. After all, until buyers manage all of these issues, they cannot make a buying decision anyway.
Let’s differentiate ourselves by helping buyers manage their behind-the-scenes buying decision issues. Sellers are not doing this – and even when they attempt to ‘understand how buyers buy’ they are not helping the buyer at all, because buyers can’t know the direct route they will take to a buying decision until they have already done so. Think about your route through weight loss, or smoking cessation, or moving house. You might know the general things that must be managed – and you might find many surprises en route – but you can’t know what the journey will be until you’ve done it.
Sales enters at the wrong time, with the wrong data, seeking the wrong outcome. Decision Facilitation first. Product sale next. And they are two different skill sets, and two different outcomes. Buyers have to do this anyway, and the time it takes them is the length of the sales cycle.
Give buyers a new customer experience. Help them decide.
My new book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it will explain it all. It’s coming out October 15. I can’t wait to share it with you.