The authors of "The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers" nailed it in their 2004 book when they said "We're entering a 'bottom-up' economy in which consumers will migrate to businesses that allow them to be participants in the process of creating what they want."
Buyers today will barely tolerate sellers. They duck and dodge sales meetings. They refuse to be pitched, opting instead to do their own legwork and research. According to the Corporate Executive Board, buyers complete 67% of their buying process before engaging a seller.
It gets worse. Forrester's 2014 research reports that only 19% of buyers rate conversations with sellers as "valuable."
That's why sellers are unable to influence purchasing decisions with much more than a price discount or marketing gimmick. It's why sellers must scramble to meet buyers' demands. It's why Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter at the Harvard Business School says that we are in a time of one the most significant shifts in economic history, experiencing "an enormous global power shift from producers to consumers, from those who make to those who buy."
Sellers have lost a lot of power. They are left with only two choices: being first or being better.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal, private equity partner Michael Dart said it this way: "If you want to win their pocketbooks, you have got to figure out how to get to them first, faster and more often ahead of all your equally compelling competitors OR have such an awesome connecting experiences that they will go out of their way to come to you."
I don't know about you, but most of the sellers I work with are simply not able to get there ahead of their competitors often enough to bank on Dart's first strategy. Since buyers are doing their own research and refusing sellers' calls, the sales tactics of yesteryear no longer work.
Which leaves us with strategy #2 -- make sure buyers have an awesome connecting experience with you...
What would be included in an awesome connecting experience? Adding up the clues from the sources cited above, we can identify three elements buyers want from sellers:
- They want to participate in co-creating solutions offered for them.
- They want conversations with sellers to be valuable to them, worth the time they're investing.
- They want sellers who can offer something more than they can find on their own from other sources.
If you read last week's CONNECT2Sell blog post, you got the full definition and nuances of what it means to inspire a buyer. The remaining question is HOW to inspire your buyer, and the most important aspect of inspiring buyers is that it can't be done alone.
Buyers want and need to be involved. Think of it like this: you can "breathe life into" a buyer, but it won't make any difference unless the buyer is responding -- metaphorically inhaling, exhaling and transporting oxygen to every cell throughout the body. There's a difference between blowing a lot of hot air and truly breathing life into your buyer.
The best way to involve a buyer in a way that inspires him or her is to personalize your interaction. Instead of a generic pitch, ask questions to truly understand what this specific buyer wants at this specific point in time. Create a unique and engaging experience for the buyer so their time with you is well-spent. By tapping into what the individual buyer cares about, you will also be offering something that no other source can provide -- what's online and in reviews and in your marketing materials is about your company and products.
This is the essence of value creation that involves the buyer. In the MIT Sloan Management Review, it was described this way:
“Value creation is defined by the experience of a specific consumer, at a specific point in time at a specific location, in the context of a specific event… The experience space is conceptually distinct from that of the product space. In the experience space, the individual consumer is central, and an event triggers a co-creation experience… The involvement of the individual influences that experience. The personal meaning derived from the co-creation experience is what determines the value to the individual.”
The personal meaning is what makes this inspiring. As a seller, strive to get your buyers participating in the process of creating what they want. That's how you'll breathe life into every sales conversation and close more sales.
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