By the time most of today's consumers are ready to make a significant purchase, they've done so much online research they make previous generations of consumers look downright ignorant in comparison. Mike Lieberman, president of Square 2 Marketing, a Philadelphia-based ad agency specializing in SMEs, and Eric Keiles, Square 2's chief marketing officer, say that your firm had better be equally prepared by the time a consumer like that visits your website, calls you or walks through your door.
In Fire Your Sales Team Today, they contend that grasping the new buyer behaviour is vital to survival for any business. Lieberman and Keiles suggest the following ways to do so:
1. Build a presence on relevant third-party sites: Although people thinking of buying from you will likely visit your website, they'll also look for validation from independent sources. These days, consumers are reluctant to stay at a hotel unless it has favourable TripAdvisor reviews or to eat at a restaurant that hasn't attracted kudos on Yelp. It's essential for you to identify the influential sites for your industry that potential clients visit, then create a presence on these sites, such as by providing relevant content, joining in the conversation or asking existing customers for reviews and testimonials.
2. Give consumers even more information: Buyers who've done extensive Internet research up front about a product or service expect you to supplement this with more detailed information. That might mean providing answers to their key questions or offering an online tool, such as an interest-rate calculator on your website, that they can use to make a wise choice. The more you can help them make an informed buying decision, the more trustworthy you'll become in their eyes.
3. Teach your salespeople a new mindset: Nothing is worse than having a sales rep respond to an educated buyer by taking the traditional approach of simply trying to "sell" her. You need to transition the "prospectors" and "closers" in your sales department into "helpful guides."
4. Invest extra time to deliver a better buyer experience: You should heed the advice of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, who built a shoe e-tailing powerhouse that he sold to Amazon in 2010. Hsieh understood that it's a bad idea to rush buyers into buying cookie-cutter solutions. Instead, encourage your sales teams and customer service reps to spend more time with each client to ensure that you sell her just the right fit for her needs. Although this will boost your cost per sales, you'll more than make up for that in repeat business and referrals.