Monday, January 30, 2012
It’s Not What You Sell - It’s How You Sell It
In a world that has gone global, there has never been such stiff competition. Many companies are finding themselves in a much commoditized market place. Even those companies that may have a differentiated product are finding themselves in a commodity buy, because that is how prospects or customers view their purchase decision. It’s no longer about what you sell - as much as it is about how you sell - that will dictate you chances of success.
Think about it. We have all been through a “purchase experience” that was anything but pleasant. For some, it was purchasing a car from a stereotypical “used car salesman” or an over-the-top pushy life insurance salesperson. For most of us, it was not the features or the uniqueness of the product/service that lead to purchasing (or not purchasing) as it was the experience of the process. It is a well-known fact that companies who create a superior purchase experience are able to truly differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
According to Sales Executive Council, research of over 5,000 business owners, C-suite executives to end users, purchase influencers, procurement officers, and even third-party consultants, revealed that only 38% of customer loyalty is attributed to the effect of your brand, product, or service. That is much lower than most would expect. The surprising part is that 53% of customer loyalty was attributed to the purchase experience.
When you consider that 70% of customer’s purchase experiences are completed before the first contact with a salesperson is made (Sirius Decisions), how you engage your audience online will be the biggest differentiator your company will have against the competition. How you optimize your customers’ experiences on your website, lead nurturing and on social media, sites to create an online connection socially, emotionally, and visually will ultimately lead to your success and differentiate you in your prospects’ minds. Also consider that many companies have spent a great deal of time and energy focusing on building their brand, product and value to a point where only 15% of the benefits companies tout are seen as unique or relevant by their prospects and customers. It really only leaves the purchase experiences as your competitive advantage.
In the past, companies competed based on things like manufacturing and distribution strength, the power of information. Today these factors are non-existent. Empowered customers are changing every industry. The successful companies will be customer-obsessed, like Facebook, Best Buy, Apple, and Amazon.com. In the digital work, there no longer are barriers to potential entrants or substitutes - competition can come from anywhere. Customers have real-time information about pricing, product features, and competitors. They hold all the advantages. The only sustainable and defensible source of competitive advantage is to concentrate on knowledge of, and engagement with, your customers. In essence, building your unique purchase experience.
Executives must become customer-obsessed and pull budget dollars from areas that traditionally created dominance — brand advertising, distribution lockup, mergers for scale, and supplier relationships — and invest in such areas as real-time customer intelligence, customer experience and customer service, sales channels that deliver customer intelligence, and useful content and interactive marketing. Those that master the customer data flow and improve frontline customer staff will have the edge. In order to achieve this, consider the experience your prospects receive when they looking to buy the product or service you sell. Did you grab their attention by fully answering their questions as they go through their purchase experience? Did you make an emotional connection with them? If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, think of your own purchase experiences and which, if any, stand out as being superior. Facilitating great purchase experiences for your customers may be the most sustainable competitive advantage that you can hope for.
When done correctly, creating a unique purchase experience for your customer base will be difficult for your competitors to imitate. This will create a tremendous value for your brand. That’s because in order to be done correctly, you need to share the true essence of your company’s culture, combined with how you can assist customers through their personal purchase experiences. That means that no two companies will have the exact same tactics. While their customer’s purchase processes may be similar, it’s the company that maps that process and shares of itself and it’s culture that will come out on top. Not the ones that copy their competitor’s strategy.
In reality, creating a positive purchase experience will make your marketing much easier because you will be speaking from the heart and help solve their prospects’ problems. Taking these steps will lead to long lasting relationships with customers as well as make your company a very desirable place to work as both your customers and employees form an emotional connection. That’s because you will connect with them at their points of emotional escalation and facilitate trust with your company. Remember, it’s starts and ends with your customers. If you can create a process, culture, and a system for consistently delivering great purchase experiences, your company will be both unforgettable and unbeatable.