In today’s world of Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, newsletters, news feeds, instant messaging and other sources, information is readily available to buyers whether they are B-C or B-B. With these resources buyers are much more sophisticated and knowledgeable before they engage with a sales professional. In fact, we live in a world where many transactions don’t even require the presence, input or contribution of a sales professional.
As an example, most online retailers allow you to shop and buy online eliminating the need for a sales representative. In B-B transactions (and in many B-C transactions), however, it continues to be the case that a sales representative is required to complete the transaction. What is important to note is how the interaction has changed because of the broad array of information that is readily available to the buyer.
Today buyers know three things before they consider engaging with a sales professional:
- They know what they know
- They know what they don’t know
- They don’t know what they don’t know
Let’s look at each one separately along with an example.
Buyers Know What They Know!
Typically, all buyers walk into a transaction with the understanding of the trigger event that has driven them to consider abandoning the status quo and doing something different. Buyers have a list of wants and desires that sellers view as features and benefits or requirements. Buyers have looked at their options and have developed a short list of potential suppliers. Sellers are either on the list or not. Buyers usually have a defined budget or an anticipated price range for the product or service.
As an example, several years ago, my wife and I moved into a new home and wanted to add a pool in the backyard. Our initial concept was a play pool where the deepest portion was 4 feet, oblong in shape with two waterfalls. We had a general idea of size and a budget.
Buyers Know What They Don’t Know!
In every buying situation, buyers have a grasp of the gaps in their knowledge base. In other words, they know what they don’t know and come prepared to ask questions. Since not all manufacturers use the same specifications to describe their products, independent ratings of products can differ markedly.
If you go back to my pool example, here is what we did not know and had to ask the sales representative. “How long would it take to install the pool from start to finish? What down payment was required and what were the financing options? Could they design the pool the way we wanted it? Was the yard large enough for the pool we envisioned? How much more was it to install a jacuzzi? What items, if any come standard with a new pool?”
Buyers Don’t Know What They Don’t Know!
In most sales transactions buyers, don’t know what they don’t know. Yes, they come prepared with questions and desires. They have done their homework but their knowledge base is incomplete. This is where good sales representatives come to the forefront. They help stakeholders learn what they don’t know. Sellers do this by asking thought provoking questions, sharing insights or perspective.
In my pool example, here were some questions that the sales representative asked us. “Would you like us to add inserts so that you can easily add a volleyball net for water volleyball? Would you like to have a large flat step with an insert so that you could sit in the water under an umbrella? Would you like to be able to turn on different colored lights at night to give the water a different ambiance? Would it be useful if we designed a backyard landscape plan with the pool being the highlight? Here are the pros and cons to a Jacuzzi in Arizona. What other elements in the backyard are important to you so that we can incorporate them into our plan?
The sales rep asked questions that we had not anticipated. He showed us photos and a few videos. This allowed us to personalize what the various elements would look like and allowed us to visualize how it would fit with our lifestyle. He explained the additional cost to add these features.
At no point, did we feel like we were being upsold. The sales representative wanted to ensure we made the best possible buying decision. His questions made us understand that we “didn’t know what we didn’t know.”
There are several pundits that predict the demise of the sales professional because of online buying, robotics and artificial intelligence. In some cases, this may become a reality. In many industries, however, the role of the sales professional will change, morph and adapt as the buyer become more sophisticated. Sellers will continue to connect with buyers through insights or new perspectives. Sellers will continue to build credibility and earn long-term relationships and referrals. The future is bright for these types of sellers.
As always, we welcome your thoughts and input. Let’s start a discussion and elevate the sales profession with a thoughtful and informative discourse.
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