Customer is king

The age of the customer: five pitfalls

Avoid these pitfalls if you want to win the heart and mind of the Empowered Customer.

I often hear that customers have changed drastically in recent years. What has actually changed is their way of interaction. Your sales, marketing and products have to adapt to this evolution, and a number of pitfalls may show up in the process.

1. You do not send the right message

Most websites I visit are continuously referring to ‘we’ and the benefits of working with ‘us’. This is of no concern to the consumer as he is looking for answers to his questions. Customers are obviously influenced by the information they find online, so you should take care that they actually get answers. Such content will make customers feel more connected and committed to your company. Step into your customer’s shoes and check whether you get answers to the questions that may occupy customers during their entire purchasing cycle.

Research has furthermore shown that prospecting costs (cold calling) have quadrupled over the last five years. You can counter this by fostering customer confidence online in accordance with their purchasing activities (buyer’s journey). How? By focusing on how the customer will be impacted if he decides to work with you. So do not talk about yourself too much, and preferably not all.

2. You focus on selling solutions

Solution selling used to take centre stage in the sales process. This is no longer the case in the current age of the customer, as the customer has already formed an idea of his solution before the seller is involved in his buyer’s journey. Customers get irritated when they are told things they have known for quite some time during a sales meeting.

The customer is therefore not waiting for a diagnosis or solution from your salesperson. Your sales department needs to have a thorough understanding of the customer and his situation. Based on this information, the salesperson can modify or enrich the customer’s view during the sales meeting. This furthermore needs to be done in line with the strengths of your company and product offer. In other words, the sales department needs other skills than in the past. Sales activation and support are indispensable in this regard.

3. The product never takes centre stage

The customer needs to see a clear reason to opt for you. However, if you focus too strongly on the product or service, the customer is not involved in the process and you do not support him in his buyer’s journey. It is important that you know your customer’s profile and develop an optimal solution on that basis.

Most salespeople have a better understanding of their product than of the customer’s situation and environment. Especially companies based in Europe have this problem. The fact that your product is better than the products of your competitors is not the message you want to send out.

4. You train your salespeople on the basis of product trainings

When asked how they train their salespeople, most companies answer: ‘with product trainings’. This is in fact not the right way. We already know that customers have formed an opinion before they come in contact with the seller. The risk is that your salesperson may try to convince the customer, or even worse, enter into a discussion with the customer.

This is the result of sales trainings which focus on what you are selling and why you are better than the rest. The more you lash out against the competition, the more you encourage customers to opt for the cheapest solution. So in the worst case you decrease your margins yourself. This is why you need to teach your staff how to explain the impact to the customer.

5. Your data are not of high quality and you do not segment sufficiently

Companies obtain the best results when they segment their market potential on the basis of common needs and challenges. Companies with a wide range of products and/or services can combine this strategy with a vertical market approach so as to make their message more clearly recognisable.

For example: you sell products that are ideal for companies with a large number of branch offices. Companies in the banking sector and the retail industry have a lot of branch offices and buy on the basis of common needs. There is only a difference in the terminology used (shop manager versus branch manager); the underlying message remains the same. A layered approach enables you to increase the reusability of marketing and sales support (cost reduction) and makes it easier for your salespeople to adapt during the meetings. This will also have a positive effect on your margin and win ratio.

Please note that a good segmentation does not suffice; you obviously need to have an excellent database as well. A reliable process to complement the segmented database on a continuous basis is indispensable in this respect.

About Pascal Persyn

Pascal supports organisations in delivering commercial excellence in the areas of Sales Enablement, Content Strategy and Buyer Journey Enablement. His pet projects are about helping companies overcome challenges due to the empowered customer and thus evolving into buyer-aligned organisations. His executive experience in private, VC-backed and public companies enables doing the right thing at the right time with the right people. Don’t hesitate to contact Pascal for expert advice: pascal@perpetos.com