Over the past few years I have taken an avid interest in the way businesses (and individuals) buy and sell products and services. Whilst my findings are not scientific, nor have I carried out any structured research, my observations have been supported by so many people, that there appears to be a pattern emerging.

Why buying and selling are linked to our marketing future

Let’s face it, the market place has changed and so has the economy.  Pretty much everyone has access to more detailed and more amazing information than ever before.  The prevalence of the internet in our everyday lives has provided us with a tool that both hinders and helps at the same time.

The economy, meanwhile, always seems to make people nervous about spending.  News programs create stagnation and fear by telling us that the economy has "slowed", yet the City has not collapsed and nor have the high street shops.  Therefore money still exists in bank accounts, and customers are still buying.  It's unlikely that we'll see the boom of 1980s in the foreseeable future, so we have to get on with it and work with what we have. This is our digital economy.

Why are we so bad at selling?

If you go back twenty years, we all had to contend with cold-calling and face-to-face meetings.  That’s how business was done.  Enquiries were made, brochures were sent out and the edict of “People buy people” was pretty accurate.

The sales process needed to be played out too; Features, Attributes, Benefits (FAB).  The salesman had to explain what the benefits were for the customer.  If there was a match with the product and the requirements, and if you had done your homework, there was a higher likelihood of making that sale.

Today, the choices are so vast for the buyer, that selling in the traditional sense has become far more hit and miss. The sales company:

  • Has both to find new business and attract new business; pushing and pulling at the same time.
  • Must distill their information into a workable format.  This can be challenging and requires a significant amount of creativity, especially when the customer has significant amounts of information too!
  • Has to engage customers on a pro-business level (not just the Golfing Day ‘Jollies’)

This all boils down to establishing a strategy that plays to both promotion and attraction and this is where it becomes ‘fuzzy’.

When sending out your message to promote your business, the response frequently required from your prospect is to look at a website or react to a mailing.  One hit wonders don’t work; if the web page they land on isn’t part of a long-term lead nurturing strategy, your promotional activities will have been a waste of time and your efforts will deliver a poor ROI because they will click away to another competitor or simply file the message in the bin.

Bottom line: we have to start thinking ‘joined up’.  Don’t set your business up to fail by attempting a series of 'quick hits'.  It doesn’t work.  Plan your sales process on- and off-line as if it were a complete presentation with a beginning, a middle and an end.

Ensure that each element has a call to action and flows to the next part of the process.  Don’t leave them hanging.  And don’t expect a 'kiss on the first date'.  Just because a business looks at you doesn't give you the right to pester them!

Your presentation needs to be consistent and maintain continuity.  We all notice when one scene of a film changes to another and the continuity fails; like Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard' wearing a clean white T Shirt in one clip and then a black T shirt in another.  The same is applies to your marketing.  If you don’t keep their attention, for whatever reason, they’ll click away.

Do I need to consider Account Based Marketing (ABM)?

Of late, a new strategy has entered the arena of direct selling and that is Account Based Marketing, or ABM.  Put simply, this is the ability to identify and market to the relevant people within an organisation who are part of the decision-making process, whether that be as an Influencer, Recommender or Decision Maker.  Each person, and therefore each level of seniority,  is communicated with on a more accurate and appropriate level.  The sales process is therefore based (almost) upon consensus and gradual agreement.  And it works.

The above strategies for new business and selling are simple enough.  Think in terms of a long-term strategy; identify the players and accurately communicate in context – if they’re in a county, town or city, mention it; if they’re in a vertical market segment, mention it; and depending on their position, communicate on the same level. And finally, give them a reason to engage with you.

Why are we so bad at buying?

In the same way that the sellers fail to keep our attention, we are also aware that we, as buyers, have significant choice.  When we are confronted by someone selling something, we immediately reach for the Internet to see if we can get it cheaper, bigger, better or we simply choose to do a bit more research.

It’s not a bad thing to get a comparison, but when it comes to being discerning about costs and service levels, we need to be conscious about what we are influenced by.

  • Is it being repeatedly marketed to us?
  • How do we feel about service?
  • What about value for money?
  • Is cost everything or do we actually require something more than just a good price?

Are we all too aware of the “disconnects” in marketing, that we get agitated when we’re approached by a salesman? Is it possible that when we choose to buy something, we start out with a low opinion or disjointed opinions of the process?

We also know that we don’t expect our doctor to call us to see if we want to visit the surgery!  So why would someone call or contact us to buy a new office product or service?  We’re busy enough as it is, without needlessly engaging with a salesperson who needs to fill his/her quota.

Where does it leave us when we sell?

If we have such a low opinion of the people who sell to us or if we’re only out for a cheap deal, then how can we expect to be treated properly when we are trying to sell our own goods and services?

There appears to be a mismatch.  We’re all buyers in one way or another, but we’re not all sellers.  Those of us who are, need to understand the balance and be aware of the psychology going on in the buyer’s head when we’re trying to sell to him/her.

Think carefully about the last and the next time you decide to buy something.  Think about your feelings and be conscious about what’s going on in your head. Then relate that to your next sales process.

Get into the minds of your prospects - it’s the best place to be if you want more business.  And the best approach is to research and interview your existing customers and see what they liked/disliked about your initial approach.

For more information about the customer's journey, from idea to inception, to marketing and close, take a look at the series of articlef and graphics in ‘Digital Marketing Transformation’.  Start planning a more meaningful approach to your sales strategy with an outcome that will have your sales people hitting their quotas like you expect them to.

For more information about preparing content in advance, take a look at our Alternative B2B Marketing Strategy and start planning you content strategy now.

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