I’ve been asked these questions lately: What are the changes that you have found in customers today compared to 10 years ago? What should sales people do to meet these new challenges?
Here’s what I think.
Customers of 10 years ago had limited Internet access, and even less Internet sophistication. The maturing of the Internet and its users have brought about more sales change in the last 10 years — than in the previous 1,000.
Today’s customer is not only more educated and more prepared — he also has alternatives. The ever-increasing sales objection: “I can get it cheaper on the Internet,” will never go away. The Internet has brought today’s customer immediate access to all of the information he or she needs to make an intelligent decision, and an intelligent purchase.
This information, combined with alternative sources of purchase, has made today’s customer, today’s consumer and today’s buyer less susceptible to the old-fashioned “sales pitch,” and more informed than most of the salespeople he or she engages.
In response to this new consumer, today’s salesperson must be equally Internet informed, prepared for, and more respectful of the probable purchaser he encounters.
The easiest example of new consumer power is a customer wanting to buy a new car.
It’s a significant purchase, and almost everyone goes online to research and compare models, features and prices.
There are also layers of Web sites that reveal truths about tactics and costs heretofore hidden about the automobile industry.
Because an automobile is so personal, most customers want to see it, touch it and drive it before they purchase it. So, they take all of their information into a car dealership where they’re confronted with a salesperson.
If the salesperson has prepared him or herself in the same manner that the customer has, he has a chance for the sale. If not, he will be eaten alive.
SHORT LIST: One other significant note, 10 years ago, the average consumer visited 4.1 dealers before making a purchase. Today, it’s 1.7 visits. The customer shows up ready to buy. It’s up to the salesperson to create an atmosphere where the sale can take place. Either the salesperson sells the customer on “yes,” or the customer sells the salesperson on “no.”
What’s a salesman to do? Plenty.
1. Take advantage of the same knowledge that your customer has so that you know how to deal with them, and the information they have.
2. Become better at building rapport, engaging, being friendly and building a relationship — than you are at selling skills.
3. Become a product knowledge maven so that you can give customers information as they ask for it, or need it.
4. Introduce the service side of your business as an advantage that the consumer may not have been able to research.
5. Look for other advantages of your business that someone just looking on the Internet may not be able to find.
5.5 Treat the customer as though they may be smarter than you are. I know for some salespeople this will be a revelation, but the sooner you get over it, the sooner you’ll become a life-long student.
MAJOR MISUNDERSTANDING: Many salespeople in car dealerships, appliance stores, new home sales and various other businesses where a major purchase can be made will complain that the customer was “just shopping around.”
Oh, they were shopping, but the salesperson was not good enough to get them to buy from him or her. To me, a customer who is “shopping” is a salesperson’s dream. Most poor salespeople are successful in turning it into a nightmare. And then conveniently blame their lack of skill on the customer’s indecision.
SALESPERSON BEWARE: Think about this. The Internet will continue to mature, will become more of a sales tool, and more of a direct sales portal for consumers. In other words, the Internet ain’t going away anytime soon, Sparky. The question is: what are you doing to ensure that your sales future lies in an industry that won’t make you obsolete? “Not me, Jeffrey, I’m bulletproof. My company needs me, and my customer needs me.” Really? I doubt it. And if you doubt me, I suggest you call ANY stockbroker and ask about the effect of the Internet on his business, and the effect the Internet has had on his customer base.
GOOD NEWS: There will always be a need for human contact.
BAD NEWS: It may not always be in sales.
GitBit: Want continued success in today’s sales world? I have a list of 3.5 realities for today’s salesperson. If you’d like to see a copy, go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first time user and type the word TODAY in the GitBit box.
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail