Why You Need to Change Your Selling Process to Compete in the Amazon Era
Approaches to buying are evolving as technology advances. Selling tactics must keep up if companies are to remain relevant. How poised is your company to keep up with these continuously-changing processes in 2018?
The rules of business continue to change. A number of these changes are redefining how business is done and selling is one function being transformed. If companies want to successfully participate in the future, they must adapt.
How customers buy is one area where companies with outdated models for buying and selling struggle. Let’s look at two examples where the buying and selling processes have changed and will continue to drive change across industries: Toys and automobiles.
Example No. 1: Toys
Traditional specialty retail companies like Toys R Us were late to online selling. To close the gap, they tried a non-exclusive relationship with Amazon to address the fulfillment role. As time moved forward, customers grew comfortable with the online buying experience versus the brick and mortar store experience. In September 2017, Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy protection.
Example No. 2: Automobiles
The auto industry is seeing a similar need to continuously revise their selling model. The average car buyer’s research skills have increased. Their demands for tailoring a car and scheduling test drives, as well as a more transparent and streamlined purchasing process, have all increased. Many car buyers are expecting to reduce their time in the dealership environment and have more choices, options and guarantees than in the past. According to Autotrader, the top five activities conducted online by car shoppers include: researching car prices, finding actual cars listed for sale, comparing different models, finding out what a current car is worth, and locating a dealer or getting dealer info. Clearly buyers are getting very skilled in conducting the research they need in order to increase their confidence in negotiating and making better buying decisions.
In the age of Amazon, is your B2C or B2B selling process/model evolving and current with what your customers need from you?
So if buyers know how to research products and services as consumers, what do your customers need from your sales people when they first meet? As this self-service behavior becomes the normal buying and selling process for B2C buyers, it is easy to see how this model would be applicable in a range of buying scenarios for B2B environments.
Since the 1990’s B2B companies have broadened the use of the Internet and related technology across the enterprise. Companies have formed well-organized teams of decision makers, increased access to data and information, developed sophisticated buying processes, and leveraged technology to augment human research and decision making. As we see in the B2C markets, this allows most companies to complete much of their research and decision process before ever meeting your salesperson.
How the B2C and B2B customers buy what they need from you and the customer experience they prefer are critical areas under pressure by new digital tools being created every day. The customer used to need more from a sales person in order to evaluate and solve a problem or need.
For every business, how you engage your customer depends on several factors to include:
- The complexity and specifications of your product/service;
- if your product is an integral component of/in the customer’s product/service;
- if your product changes or is upgraded frequently;
- if the purchase is the first one or ongoing transactions (repeat purchases); and
- if your product is a commodity.
As technology improves, the buying and selling processes will continue to evolve.
Have your marketing, sales, customer service and fulfillment processes and your sales training and strategies kept up with these trends and changes in the buying process in order to remain relevant and aligned with your most demanding and most profitable customers?
Are you engaging your customers at each stage of their buying process? Whether it is a first-time customer or a long-term loyal customer, are people, processes, data, and digital tools aligned to respond to and satisfy customers based on the way they want to buy to help them achieve their goals?
The purpose of every business is to attract, create and retain the target customers that build the business. Building your business model around your best customers, what they need and how they buy is a great place to assess your selling process.
What needs to change in your sales process in 2018: How you sell? How you train? How your selling process best fits the customers buying process?
Consider the following steps (which I will cover in future articles):
- Assess and define where you are today with your best customers, their needs and their experience doing business with you. Does your selling process align with their buying process?
- Develop a vision for your new selling process and commission a cross-functional team to champion the changes and improvements identified by your best customers.
- Develop an action plan to upgrade your capabilities, improve your processes/systems/tools to augment human skills/effort, overcome obstacles/resistance and move toward the vision.
- Pilot changes with cooperative customers and demonstrate quick wins to key internal stakeholders.
- Consolidate lessons, identify training needs, reinforce the benefits of the new selling process and recognize the desired new behaviors.
Your best customers depend on you and they want you to keep up with them. What must you do now in order to do a better job for your customers in the future?
Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.