Customers are Cutting Out the Fat (Sales People) in the Buying Process
Because customers have unprecedented access to information today they would rather not meet with sales people if it is going to be the same old, same old. They would rather tap their professional networks, or get their information from more unbiased and trusted sources.
However, when customers want context and not content, you better deliver by being real, trustworthy, credible and be able to offer expert diagnostic skills to help them look at their business with fresh eyes.
There is so much information available on the Internet you better bring something different to the table. When it comes to conventional sales people, most customers have a position of, tell me something I do not know, otherwise you are wasting my time. And usually the most important information for customers is giving you new insight about them, assuming they trust you and value your insight and perspective, and not for them to garner biased, uncritical information about your solution and your company.
"We are in an era of increasing transparency and we will never be the same because of it. It's a new reality. Information flows faster and it is everywhere. Companies are naked on the web 24/7, it's very hard to hide anything because of it," says Chris Brogan.
So being forthcoming and radically honest is a great way to differentiate your offering, and provide real insight and value. So take off your blinders of product knowledge and dig deep into the customer's problems and their consequences.
Be blissfully ignorant and come to the table prepared to be unprepared, because ultimately the customers is in control and they have the majority of the answers and the inside track of what their real corporate priorities are. Do your homework and use all your knowledge and information as a tool primarily to ask more questions.
"Despite the fondest wishes of sales managers around the world, the person controlling the buying/selling transaction is the buyer. All a sales person can do is control himself," says Bill Murray. I would go even further, beyond the fondest wishes and positive intentions of sales people, it is the customer's reality that will help drive the sales transaction, not the sales person's reality, or the reality of how they can help a customer or prospect.
The next time you meet a customer, why not try to stand out from the crowd by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You can go even further. You could help the customer understand their truth. You could help them by describing the hard truths and the realities of their situation in a very non-biased way. You will be amazed at what radical honesty can do for you. When both you and your customer have a solid hold on reality, you will both prefer reality over fantasy.
Many large customers are so turned off by traditional sales people that they have instituted the Walmart principle; do not call us, we will call you. And when we do, it will be on our terms and at our convenience, and we will want to talk directly to someone in operations not sales. The sales department represents a middleman cost that we want to avoid and do not gain from.
Because many orthodox sales people are seen as irrelevant and inconsequential in delivering real value and non-biased insight, customers have resorted to reverse auctions, Internet buying, offshore sourcing and standardized purchasing. All these trends will continue as they try to cut out perceived fat (sales people) in their procurement process.
"Consumers are enlightened because they have the power to decide what to buy, where to buy it, how to pay for it, and what marketing messages to believe," says Rohit Bhargava. The difference between watching reality-based television and scripted drama is like the difference between high definition television and a 1970's quality video. The same can be said between the difference between being genuine and real, and being a stereotypical, hype filled sales person who believes exclusively in the power of their message, versus the power of the customer's story and the message about their challenges.