Overcoming Customer Behaviour Pattern Part 2
In the last issue, I had mentioned of the paradigm shift in approach to selling that needs to be adopted by sales person to be successful in closing deals. In this issue let me try to look at few of those in more detail.
Identifying and agreeing to the problems faced by prospective customers
In the case of enlightened prospective customer it becomes easy for the sales person to understand the issues since the prospects is aware of his problems and is able to articulate them. The sales person then has to look for the matching solution from his offerings.
The real challenges the sales person faces are in the case of prospects who are not aware of the problem they face and many times lack of knowledge of the available solutions, that have made them live with the problem. This is especially true in case of information technology industry wherein customers would have bought in expensive products which have not solved problems they were expected to solve, whereas cheaper and better solutions would be now available. Customers in such cases need to be made aware of ‘disruptive technology’ which refers to new, less expensive and more efficient products and processes which displaces existing technologies. Examples abound from the Industrial age when canals were the primary modes of transport and were replaced by the railways, to the modern era when digital cameras are displacing film cameras, cellular phones displacing fixed telephony, etc. The challenge of the sales person in such cases is to be aware of the best possible solutions and highlight the same to the prospect.
Also many times, customers are not aware of the magnitude of the problem due to the absence of mechanism within their organization on continual improvement. In such cases it would be wise for the sales person to share his experience of problems faced by businesses similar to prospects and how newer solutions have solved their problems. Such sharing of best practices of others similar industries helps the prospects to take stock of his situation and get interested in new offerings.
The real challenges the sales person faces are in the case of prospects who are not aware of the problem they face and many times lack knowledge of the available solutions, that have made them live with these problems.
Offering solutions that solve the problem
In India in the last decade the banks have deployed ATMs across urban and semi urban areas. However in the interior rural areas replicating ATM model where no banks exist for many miles is not the most appropriate solution due to cultural and infrastructural issues. Many banks have realised this the hard way. One of the local area banks in the remote area of Andhra Pradesh has pioneered ‘mobile banking’ (not banking through mobile phone). Mobile banking is ‘banking on wheels’ where in customers experience the conventional banking by meeting the banker, that we had been experiencing, before the mushrooming of ATMs everywhere in urban areas. Since these rural customers prefer conventional banking and they cannot afford to go to banks due to their daily wage earning status or due to distance of the bank, the mobile banks visit them every day for couple of hours. These rural banks have devised solutions that help to solve customer problems. Needless to say that mobile banks and not ATMs are a huge success with the customers. The mobile banks have proved to be profitable both for the customer and the banks.
Once all aspects of customer’s problems are known it becomes easy for the sales person to understand if the solution he has will be the best fit and if it is not, then it is best for sales person not to push the solution to the prospect. Selling a solution which does not solve customer’s existing problem will ‘shut the door’ permanently for the sales person and add to his list of discontented customers, who in turn will become bad ambassadors for the future.
Understanding the concerns of the prospect to the proposed offering
Once sales person shares the solution it is obvious that the prospect will have many concerns about the offering. The Sources of these concerns arise primarily from too much knowledge about the offerings or lack of knowledge about the offerings. It is important that such concerns raised are addressed to the full satisfaction and all queries answered. In case of high value solutions it is also useful to share details of reference customers who can be directly contacted by the prospect to clarify their concern.
Understanding the prospect’s obstacles to buying
Once the sales person has overcome the three steps outlined above, the last but most important hurdle to cross is to understand the key drivers that will influence the prospect’s decision to buy, at this stage of the transaction. It will be emotional, functional and economic in that order. ‘Emotion’ will persuade and motivate his decision to a large extent. The role of rational elements of ‘functionality’ and ‘economics’ will no longer be the key drivers that decide the buying decision when compared to ‘emotion’. The role of price he has to pay for the acquisition cost at this stage will not influence his decision unless the price is wide off the mark.
Understanding customer behaviour is a complex subject and many years of field experience in handling different situations comes handy just as in any profession. However, common mistakes in selling can be avoided by understanding a few behaviours that are exhibited by any customer big or small, with subtle differences in behaviour pattern, due to cultural and social factors.
Head -Strategy & IT Consulting
McCarthy & Menon Consulting Pvt.Ltd.,India.