Customers are more sophisticated and have new expectations about the role of the sales professional and vendor partner.
Sound familiar? If you’re a top producer, you’re leaning into this trend during every engagement with prospective customers. We know the sales landscape has changed and that our customers are more informed. We’re meeting them much deeper into the decision-making cycle. Today, most customers travel the first mile of their decision journey alone.
The million dollar question is: What are you doing about it?
The transformation requires a wholesale shift in our go-to-market strategy — and that’s an opportunity. Consider how vastly different buying a car is today, for example. The best dealerships are offering customers an entirely different experience — or they are out of business. That trend and transformation isn’t isolated to auto retailing, either. Today, the most successful sales organizations are adjusting to meet and exceed a whole new set of customer expectations.
In the experience economy, the best sales professionals are students, teachers and storytellers.
The Student & Teacher
The world is changing. Your customers are more informed. The only way to stay relevant? Stay a student so you can be a teacher.
Just showing up for a sales call doesn’t cut it anymore. Today customer engagement requires intense preparation. To compete, you are expected to understand your own solutions, your competition, industry trends and your customer’s business. However, that still isn’t good enough. The key is the ability to leverage all of the information into critical thinking that provides a customer with compelling new insight. The onus is on you to help a client advance their thinking and see the future differently in partnership with you.
Here’s a shocking number that I’ve mentioned before: 65%. That’s how many sales professionals can’t identify their customers’ value drivers. So, if you fall into the 35% of sellers that invest the time to identify and understand customers’ key decision drivers, you already have a huge competitive advantage. Test yourself by auditing your last sales call. In fact, audit every single customer touch point. Do you know the value drivers?
If you don’t invest the time in preparation and research, I guarantee you that you’ll meet someone in the marketplace that does. Who deserves the deal? How far are you willing to go to impact your customers with insight and ideas? Are you more prepared than the competition?
We practice what I preach. For our corporate speaking engagements, we often include pre-event focus groups in our “Customer Immersion” discovery process. The idea is to identify the specific and unique challenges of every single audience and design curriculum mapped to what people want to learn. It can be time consuming, but that research and knowledge give me credibility and confidence when delivering a program. Studying my customer makes me better and improves the entire event experience. Preparation and customization are my secret weapon!
Storytelling is the most powerful way to connect with customers. When a customer arrives at an inflection point, is about to make an important decision, feels anxious or uncertain, you have the opportunity to make an impact through the power of story. Provide evidence their decision is the right one with a story about another customer who was in the exact same position. What did they decide? What were the results of that decision? Where is that customer today? Your best stories should be socialized through the entire sales organization. However, that still isn’t good enough.
The stories that have the biggest potential impact are never the stories you tell. They are the stories that customers tell for you. Are you helping your own brand evangelists tell your story? Are you asking for the tell? Making it easy for them to tell?
Customer stories are a game-changing tool, and your customers are more connected and more inclined to share than ever before. If you want to influence the first mile of the customer decision journey, consider how you are telling your story and who is helping you tell it. Home-run stories give your customers proof of concept and close sales.
Your customers are changing. Leverage the evolution to your advantage. Embrace the sales shift and compete to win by becoming a student, teacher and storyteller.
Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.