The buying experience has been completely reinvented over the last decade, and companies slow to adapt are losing revenue and market share as a result.
A 2011 Sales Executive Council study showed 57 percent of the buying process is completed before a prospect even makes contact with a sales rep. We now live in a world built predominantly of connected buyers whose minds are almost made up before they choose to interact with a member of your team, as most of the desired information is at their fingertips, day or night. If they make contact, buyers don't distinguish between a customer service and sales rep, as they see them as one in the same.
For these reasons your company's customer service and sales teams must be armed with the skills to effectively engage with a connected buyer. Start by throwing the previous decade's rules of selling out the window.
Next, identify the triggers that lead most connected buyers to begin exploring the types of products and services you have to offer. Although they vary widely by industry, some common triggers are: dissatisfaction with a competing vendor, an advertising campaign creating a need, and a change in circumstances (i.e. expansion into a new location, a significant new competitor coming to market, or an influx of venture capital opening up purchasing strings). Identifying these trigger points can allow you to ensure your name is front and center when the triggers occur. If you offer accounting services, a trigger may be new business permits. A well-timed letter may ensure your company is "in the mix" as that connected buyer begins to explore possible firms with which to partner.
When a connected buyer enters the exploration phase, their top go-to resources are the web, their friends and the community. Ensure you are favorably influencing that 57 percent of the decision that occurs before you're directly involved by verifying your website performs well in common keyword searches, is customized for usage on any type of handheld device, and that the information your typical connected buyer seeks is readily available.
Also ensure the connected buyer is receiving positive third-party feedback about your company by controlling what you can: allow top influencers in the market to try your offering (at a discount or for free) to create brand champions, maintain a strong social media presence, encourage your happy customers to write testimonials on top review sites, and include those testimonials on your website.
Follow these guidelines to ensure your company is among the group of companies being considered by the connected buyer. Check back next week for tips your sales team can use to better engage the connected buyer, once they do connect, and close more deals.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee -- www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovecompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).