No doubt you’ve seen the statistics. Last I read, buyers are now 50-60% of the way through their “buying process” before contacting a salesperson. As the internet and its search technology pervade our world, buyers are doing more research on their own before engaging salespeople.
As per usual, I have a secret for you. They aren’t going through a “buying process.”
They’re going through a RESEARCH process.
The buying process begins once the salesperson is contacted.
If you think about what the internet has done for sellers and buyers, its actually a great thing for everyone. It has shortened the sales cycle because it’s given buyers the freedom to do their own research…and why shouldn’t they? You do it every time you go look at a new car or piece of electronic equipment. You’re saving the salesperson time by eliminating most of your endless options down to a select few.
Research helps us begin to define what we want and don’t want. You don’t need to worry about them making a buying decision without you or “getting too far down the road!” If you have the chops, you have what you need to create a compelling case if a course change or rewind is indeed necessary. They’ll respect and appreciate you that much more if your advice does prove correct.
Feel better? Good. Now that we’re no longer running around with our hair on fire, that doesn’t mean we still can’t pay attention and adjust our approach if necessary.
The degree of challenge this new “buyer research” phenomenon may present to your business is in direct ratio to the following 3 factors:
1.) How often your target customer buys.
2.) The average spend per purchase.
3.) The difficulty caused for them by changing vendors.
For big ticket items and contract type sales, it may be helpful to be “known” in the marketplace, because it increases the likelihood you’ll get a call when the buyer begins exploring their options. The answers to the above questions for this group are:
1.) They make decisions rarely – think 1-3 year contracts.
2.) The sales dollars tend to be higher- after all, they are negotiating a multi year spend.
3.) Difficulty of changing vendors may vary. If they’re used to it then its not hard, then again, they only have to do it once every year or three….it could be pretty difficult and they’d just grit their teeth and get through it.
For most other kinds of sales, the buyers aren’t exploring any options. They are in a consistent buying routine. To make a sales call on them simply disrupts that routine…and because most salespeople do a terrible job, this disruption is even more unwelcome.
For this second group the answers are:
1.) They buy all the time, weekly, monthly, whatever, but typically not on a contract or long term agreement.
2.) If they’re buying all the time, its likely they’re spending less per invoice.
3.) Switching is usually easier, but depends on 3 major factors: The “commodity-ness” of the item being purchased, the buyer’s tolerance of and willingness to change, and most importantly, the quality of the business relationship between the decision maker and the incumbent provider.
A couple things to think about:
1.) Which kind of sales are you in? A significant percentage of the sales population tends to deal with this second type of client that tends to make more frequent, smaller purchases. Purchases where the buyer could make a lateral move at any time, or at least in a short period of time.
2.) Is your standard operating procedure to sit around and do nothing when not serving a client? You’re not the type that makes a limited amount of work expand to fill a day right? Wouldn’t you agree if you’re not presently working with a current client….you need to be looking for the next one?
If you agree, it means you are going to be contacting lots of people unsolicited, none which were planning on talking with you. They are likely not even IN a research phase. They initially had no intention of working with you, but one year later you are a valuable vendor they can’t live without. How did that happen?
VERY few buyers want a salesperson to contact them, and its usually for good reason. I know. I’ve been contacted by a few Terribles in the last several months. They’ve left voicemails that have completely missed the mark, failing to engage me or create ANY interest. I even had one voicemail where, for 62 excruciating seconds, the guy never said what company he worked for, or what he even ACTUALLY DID. Incredible.
So when you hear about this changing world where buyers will be contacting you further along in their process than ever, take that with a grain of salt and realize it very likely doesn’t apply to your business…and it isn’t a scary thing even if it does.
Valuable salespeople uncover opportunity where none appeared to previously exist, and it doesn’t matter what stage of a buying process the buyer may/may not be in.
So get out there, be proactive, and don’t be alarmed by everything you read on the internet. Unless I write it ;D