My observation is that the world is changing the way it buys products and services; Especially since the financial crisis of 2008/9.
I am not just talking about the contraction in spending that is occurring across most of the major markets (not all geographies are included in this), although the contraction in the USA and across Europe is certainly a factor that is making selling in the business environment more challenging. What I am referring to here is the way in which buyers now evaluate a buying decision – changes are occurring within the buyer’s mind that sellers/vendors must adapt to.
The sales environment is evolving – it is changing. But it’s subtle because sales people and sales organisations are still making sales selling in the same way they have always sold. Buyers are still buying because they have to. So on the surface it looks like nothing is afoot…but it is!
A lot of companies are down significantly in revenue. Sales are down and partly its because of the economy but I believe that in a lot of organisations there is lack of a) awareness that the buyer is shifting and b) the capability to do anything about it.
Here’s what I am talking about; I said earlier that organisations and individuals are still buying because they have to. Just because they are buying from you today doesn’t mean they will buy from you tomorrow. The contraction following Lehman caused a lot of companies to react and retract. They still sold but they often abandoned selling value and entered into a price strategy; discounting, lower priced options etc. and essentially commoditising the market in which they operate. That strategy worked for then – but what it did was de value their offering in the minds of the prospect. So now the market got conditioned to cheaper prices, less value for the same product or service. Add into that budget cuts, and buyers became more cost conscious than before and got better at negotiating, because they had to.
This effect has had a lasting change in the consciousness of buyers and even as seemingly better times are approaching (I have a view on where the world economy is heading but that’s a separate article) that prior conditioning is making it harder for vendors/sellers to effectively demonstrate value for their offerings.
This is the shift – customers know they can get what you have cheaper elsewhere and/or don’t believe your value message; and that is a big problem! I believe that this is only going to get worse.
So what do you do about it?
Apart from hiring me (!), sales organisations must accept that they have to evolve the way in which they are selling their products. Product and service innovation is also critical (more on that to come) but the way in which you sell is going to make the biggest impact in your sales results.
You have to realise – people don’t like to be sold to but they love to buy (that isn’t going to change). Sales people and organisations must create a world class “buying experience” for their customers.
That takes focus, time, persistence, skill, constant training, structure, the right people, the right leaders, relentless pursuit of sales excellence….world class sales must be aligned with a world class buying experience.
Remember – Just because they buy from you today doesn’t mean they will buy from you tomorrow!