Because of the revolution, your buyers have access to instantaneous in depth information. The access to information is causing a secondary revolution, the buyer's revolution. Your firm and your sales people no longer control the critical information. Your customers don’t need to call you any more to get information. This fact should have a dramatic effect on how your business goes to market.
Buyers behavior has drastically changed and it is critically important for business people and especially marketers to understand the difference between buyer behavior to day compared to buyer behavior 10, 15 or 20 years ago:
- In a study by Sirius Decisions, a leading business to business research firm, they found that on average buyers don’t reach out to suppliers until they are 70% through their buying process. This 70% phase is where your firm can gain an edge. As an example, back in the 1990s, buyers would have to engage at the 10% point. At the 10% point, your firm would know there was a need, have a point of contact and get a chance to send in their crack salesman to make the sale. Typically, the best salesman got the sale.
- The days when your firm and its sales people controlled the information are long gone. The information is available with a quick Google or Bing search on anything, anytime, anyplace. Your buyers are investigating your offering, your firm and your competitors without your people ever knowing about the investigation until it's too late and you're fighting a price war.
- Buyers don’t care about your firm, your products, your service or your CEO. They care about WIIFM (what’s in it for me). This is a subtle but hugely different way to approach sales and marketing.
In the olden days of say 1990, when we made a considered purchase (as opposed to an impulse purchase), it went something like this:
- Pull out the Yellow Pages, look up Copiers and take down a few phone numbers. “Hello, Acme Copiers, I need to get a new copier for my office. Could you tell me about the latest technology in copy machines? Yes, that sounds good. I’ll see your salesman John, a copier expert, first thing Monday morning”. This would be repeated 2 or 3 more times and more meetings with a sales person would be scheduled. In this scenario, you engaged directly with the company at about the 10% point. The copier company and the salesman controlled the information.
- Today, in the modern age, when we make a considered purchase, 98% of us go immediately to a web search. We search for office copiers. We may click on an ad or we may click on the organic search results. We explore web sites. We might download specifications, technology white papers, attend a webinar or print out an infographic. These actions are repeated by most of the decision influencers. The investigation does not require any direct interaction with the sales team. We might even make up a short list of final contenders without ever directly contacting any of the firms. We get the information we want without having to deal with the company or the salesman. In most cases, the buyer is incognito as far as the company knows.
Many firms are still selling and marketing like it's the 1990's. The problem is that the buyers are making purchasing decisions in the modern information rich age.
The savvy firm whose people understand how to take advantage of the 'new buyer's revolution' can gain a significant edge over those firms stuck in the 1990s.
This is the secret to gaining an edge:
You've got to engage with the prospective customers during this 70% investigative phase. The engagement needs to offer the buyer something they value. They don’t value product brochures or anything that tells them about your firm which is what most companies are doing. The buyer values WIIFM. They value the firm that helps them do better. Offer educational or entertaining information created by your experts and sharing your expertise. By engaging in the early phase of the buying process with helpful, useful information, you will gain two significant and critical components; TOMA and credibility. If you are able to accomplish TOMA and credibility, you will get a place in their minds. When the day comes and they are ready to make the purchase, your firm will get the call first and already have a privileged position on the short list. The rest will be hopelessly fighting to catch up.
There is a window of opportunity now open. Most firms don’t understand the new buyer’s habits as it relates to their firm. The firms that are able to leverage this incredible communication revolution and the buyer’s revolution will win in their market space. Winning means strong growth rates of 10, 20 or 30%. You've got to be first or second in your market space to take advantage. As soon as your competitors learn about your success, they will level the playing field once again.