To interact with your potential customers, you need a combination of the two.
By Carole Mahoney
We recently had to buy a new-to-us truck after our old one went into the shop and didn’t come back out again. The entire experience reminded me of why I used to hate sales.
After we got our pre-approved auto loan, I found our No. 1 choice at a local dealership that was close to our budget. I made the appointment online to test drive it through CarFax and my husband Steve went after work to check it out.
When he pulled into the lot, there was no one outside to greet him and he didn’t see the truck anywhere. Was he in the right place? He went into the dealership and asked the first person he saw, “Are you in sales? I have an appointment to test drive a truck.”
Test drive out of the way, Steve sat down with Sean the Salesman, who asked, “What do we have to do today to get you into this truck?”
Seriously. That is what he said.
“Easy,” Steve replied. “Come down $987. My financing is already approved, and my ceiling is $35K.”
So, what does Sean do? He took out his checklist, and immediately started asking about our financing. “What’s your rate?” “How long is the term?”
Now Steve is starting to get frustrated. After all, didn’t he just tell Sean the Salesman we already had financing? “Can we just move on from that? You can’t match it, so let’s move on.”
“What is your credit score?” Sean replied, looking at his checklist.
“That’s pretty much irrelevant, can we move the <insert expletive here> on?”
So, what does Sean do? If you guessed go get his manager, then there’s a gold star for you.
Mr. Big, the sales manager, comes over and says, “Nope, I cannot drop it down $987. My job is to move metal. I bought this wholesale, and I can’t budge on the price.”
Because we booked this through the CarFax website, we knew that this same truck was priced for $1000 less the previous week and that the truck was listed at $1987 more than the average market price. So, Steve knew Mr. Big was lying. Did this guy not realize when we booked the appointment through the CarFax website what information was available to us on that site?
It actually got worse from there. When we got around to talking about a trade-in, we knew that the market trade-in value for our truck was $4000. They tried to tell us that our truck has so many miles on it they couldn’t do more than $1500.
Clearly, they thought we were stupid. Or that no one looked for information online anymore. Of course, we walked out and went to another dealership we found on the Carfax website, which did almost the exact opposite of everything this first dealership did.
They had the truck waiting for us when we showed up for the appointment. They didn’t try to add in fees, or low-ball our trade-in. They didn’t just share the same information with us that we had found online but shared a more in-depth report on the truck and maintenance records that we didn’t know were important based on how we planned to use it. (Lots of lumber and gardening supplies; the truck is basically my new gardening tool.) In less than an hour, we had our new truck.
What About Your Customers?
Now you might be thinking that buying a car is far from comparable to your sales process. However, a recent study done by Gartner suggests that 43% of business-to-business buyers prefer a digital experience.
How people buy has changed; there is no doubt of that. Thanks to the internet, we have come to expect the transparency of information and a buying experience that we decide on how to engage, not the other way around.
Hearing that, as a business leader, you are faced with two choices now:
No. 1. Go 100% digital.
No. 2. Develop better sellers.
Which would you choose to invest in?
Many people I have shared this with have chosen “go digital.” I mean it is so much easier to manage technology than people, right? And with the so-called hiring crisis, that probably makes even more sense.
Of course, then I told people the survey also showed those same buyers who wanted a salesperson-free experience had a 23% higher level of purchase regret or buyer’s remorse.
Buyers who regret buying from you will not leave the good online reviews that drive more customers to your business or refer other people they know personally to do business with you.
They will do quite the opposite and tell everyone who asks how they regret working with you.
The survey also suggested that when decision confidence is high, buyer regret is low when they measured for components such as the following:
The buyers asked the right questions. Do they understand the problem they are having? This is where you will need to be sure that you ask them the questions they should be asking. Most of your buyers may not know what to ask and that makes them unsure they are making the right decision.
They’ve identified the best information. Sure, they can do a Google search for what might be going on, but how do they know what it means for them? Start helping them make sense of it all by asking what information they have found and be prepared to help them understand whether it is relevant to their problem, or what that means to their specific situation.
They’re aligned at key decision points. Many times, you may find there is more than one person involved in the purchasing process. What is important to each person? What is relevant to the problem and decision? How does each person’s viewpoint overlap or connect?
They know how the purchase will positively impact them. This might seem obvious to you, but if they have never bought this before, then it might not be obvious to them. If you have asked the questions so they understand what is important to them and why, then the impact should be obvious.
They feel the purchase was a good choice. This is about what happens after they make the decision. Follow-through and service are key here, as is the communication from the initial seller. Do your sellers close the deal and move on, or do they follow up after the sales at regular intervals to make sure the purchase met expectations?
Did you notice that all of this is based on what the buyer knows, understands, and feels? Can you really afford not to have the buyer first in your sales process?
The survey suggested these key drivers had a 5% to 8% impact. It also indicated a sales representative’s ability to use technology to facilitate the buying process had a 17% impact!
For example, if someone booked an appointment with a service technician, you can use technology to confirm it via email and in that email include a series of commonly asked questions and why they are important.
Then when the seller or technician shows up, they can help the customer to make sense of the information they were given and what they have found.
Or after the appointment is over, your representative or seller could then send an email to the potential buyer or service customer with a summary of the visit and next steps. This could be written, or even better, done by video.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that there isn’t one way or the other when it comes to sales, but an integration of digital and salespeople. Your goal should be to develop better sellers and use technology in the process to make it easier for your buyers to engage.
And how you do that will completely depend on your buyers’ preferences. The best way to find that out is to ask them. “Would this be helpful for you?” “How do you prefer to get information?” Forcing your buyers and customers to go through a process they don’t want is a sure way to alienate them.
How well your salespeople use technology to enable and enhance the human experience is going to have the greatest impact on your business.
Carole Mahoney, as the founder of Unbound Growth, has coached Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial MBA students on sales and been featured as a top sales coach by Ambition and Sales Hacker. You can contact her directly at www.unboundgrowth.com.