When Dave Kurlan spoke to a group of Milwaukee CEO's a few weeks ago, one of the key points many executives walked away with was how sales has changed in recent years. One of the changes Dave highlighted is what many marketing pundits call "Customer 2.0." This concept acknowledges how the buying process has been changed by the increased level of data on the Internet, along with social media tools that fuel conversations among customers and businesses. Using these social media tools makes it is easier for your potential customers to get information about your company, your brand, your products or services, and your prices. Does anyone walk into a car dealership without knowing the invoice price the dealer paid the factory?
So what does this mean for your sales team? Well, if an informed customer calls and is ready to buy, many "sales people" think all they have to do is get out of the way and take the money.
Here are a couple problems with that:
First, the prospective customer might not be as informed as they think they are because many mistake data for knowledge. Have they asked the right questions? Have they considered all of their alternatives? What impact will the factors they have not considered have on their experience and ultimate satisfaction with your company or product?
Second, your sales person isn't really selling in this scenario, they're just taking the order. That's a clerk's job and yet many "sales people" don't realize it. How many clerks do you have on your sales team?
What should happen?
When an informed prospect calls ready to buy, the first thing your sales person should do is acknowledge their hard work and research and then start asking questions. It might sound something like "Great, I can see you've done a lot of research on this....can I ask you a few questions just to make sure this is best solution for you?"
Sales people who can slow down the informed (or sometimes misinformed) prospect long enough to engage them in an intelligent conversation and ask questions about what they really need, how they're going to use it, what they want to accomplish, etc. will be much more successful in the long run because the people buying your product or service will be more satisfied. And believe me, the long-term value of helping a potential customer make the right decision - even when that decision means they're not buying your product or service today - is worth far more than the short-term value of that one transaction.
Just because a buyer has "qualified" themselves by doing some research and asking their friends and followers for input doesn't mean they're truly ready to buy or even that they should buy. Make sure your sales people continue to follow your sales process (you do have a sales process map, don't you?) by asking questions and helping the customer discover whether or not your solution is the best option for their situation.
Customer 2.0 will only mean the death of your sales team if you let it. Raise your expectations by making sure your sales team can consistently demonstrate their expertise by asking questions and helping customers walk away with the right answer.