Selling to today’s customers presents a number of challenges, even for seasoned sales experts. There is no doubt that customers today have more knowledge about the product and much greater need for information before making a decision on a high value item than ever before.
The changing customer landscape
- 81% of customers research on-line before making big purchases.
- The amount of research and shopping around means that they take on average 79 days to make their decision about a big purchase.
- Third party advice and contribution is more common now than ever before. Just think about the importance of sites like Trip Advisor, Checkatrade etc. Many stores are telling us that it’s now become the norm for their customers to send photos of the product to others in order to get a quick opinion.
All this can add to the pressure on the customer and can often lead to indecision, especially if it involves more than one decision maker or influencer.
Customers also have higher expectations and more confidence to challenge the price. They often have more pressure, less time and more likely to want to be in control of the process.
So is your business fully equipped to sell to today’s customers in the right way?
Conscious selling – the next big thing
Research by Virada Training, experts on selling to consumers, shows that one of the skills needed to sell to today’s customers is the ability to manage the interaction; to be in control in a way that makes the customer FEEL in control. This is similar to the feeling that happens when we fly. We want the PILOT to sound in control so we can feel in control.
So if ‘control’ is so important, how to we deal with independent customers who really don’t want to be ‘sold to’?
Well, firstly, selling today is not about a quick, magic formula, a ‘technique’ or a clever closing phrase. Today’s customers are far too savvy to accept that and can see right through it.
Today’s approach involves focusing not on the sales process, but the buying process.
It involves establishing which of the eight stages of the buying process they’re at and also helping the customer to externalise their thinking.
This enables the customer and the sales person to become more conscious about the customer’s needs, criteria, drivers and the role of any influencers.
Sounds difficult? Actually it isn’t; in simple terms, it’s about facilitating a discussion about their buying decision using advanced communication skills.
A flavour of how it works
It includes the use of ‘raising awareness’ questioning. For example, asking the customer: “What drew you to (or what attracted you to)……….?” achieves many things. The answer reinforces their positive decision to contact your company and it raises awareness of the key drivers; useful for both you and the customer.
Other good questions are: “What’s important to you in the choice of……..?” or, in the absence of all decision makers, key questions are: “Is anyone else helping with the decision?”, “What would be important to…….?”
There is also ‘multi-level’ questioning. For example: “What do you think about this one?” Your customer might say: “I like it”. Probe further: “What is it you like about it the most?” If they say: “It’s unique”, you can ask: “Is unique important to you?”
So these are three levels of questions aimed at helping to ‘externalise’ just one aspect of the buying decision process. By asking focused questions, the customer is listening to themselves talking about their needs, likes and dislikes and becomes more conscious of them. In this way, it’s far easier for them to make a decision.
The customer feels as though they are buying and NOT being sold to.
How to raise credibility of the sales person
Also, as the sales person engages the customer through questions, the customer is talking and the two way dialogue is key. Trust in the sales person is enhanced and more is revealed.
In this way, the sales person is learning more about the customer, the presentation of the product is more focused as are any product recommendations. For example: “I’ve brought you this (product) as you said that you like this material”.
With this focused approach, the customer is far more likely to return.
What conscious selling achieves
Conscious selling is more than just questions, but the approach is always subtle, which is perfect for today’s independent customers, yet it’s powerful and takes sales to a higher level.
There are many benefits: it’s an authentic and more rewarding interaction with the customer, it raises the credibility of the sales person and really helps all parties to feel in control. Great for today’s savvy and overwhelmed customer.
And very importantly, it is proven to increase sales.