So far in this series, we’ve looked at how you can apply the hard-earned wisdom of top sales professionals who thrive in crowded, commodity-driven markets and apply it to any organization—even yours.
One method is to focus on rethinking the way you present your product or service.
The second method is to focus on your process.
Whether you build a product or provide a service, what you are offering your customer is the outcome of a series of steps or actions designed to achieve a particular end. Far too often, those steps don’t get talked about. They’re just carried out. But when you differentiate on process, you are capitalizing on how customers feel about doing business with you. Let’s look at four ways you can do that in your own business.
Leverage technology properly
Far too often technology gets talked about as though it’s the great disruptor in the marketplace. It’s not. Where you find stacks of companies unwilling to put customer service or customer success first: that’s where you find disruption. And that is where you can leverage technology to show how your process is different from the rest.
Look at how Shake Shack is using technology to reshape the way people think about fast food. They’re experimenting with cashless digital kiosks and mobile-phone apps for order taking and pick up, eliminating the poor service of having their customers wait in long lines. For them, this move has helped to smooth-over an age-old friction point in their sales process: the point-of-sale experience. Technology isn’t driving the solution: the consumer’s desire for better and faster service is.
Make deliberate choices
The way you treat your customers determines how your customers feel about doing business with you. If you treat your customers as indistinguishable numbers, they will see you as an interchangeable supplier. Use your selling process to show that you understand what your customer needs beyond just what they are buying.
I experienced this first-hand recently when I was choosing where to go for laser-eye surgery. Two firms made the shortlist. Both provided a virtually identical service. But the buying experience between them was completely different. The first one felt like a factory. They designed their facility to be as efficient as possible: essentially corralling everyone into one large waiting room that felt like a warehouse. While there was a direct benefit to them to efficiently manage their numbers that way—a slightly cheaper fee—it had zero value to me as a customer.
I wasn’t shopping for a hot deal on eye surgery. I was buying reassurance. The second company understood this. Their office felt personable: smaller waiting areas, soothing lighting, free wifi and places for your partner to sit and watch (Chris chose to bow out of this option!) while you undergo the procedure. I picked them. Where your eyes are at stake, you’re far less motivated by efficiencies and cost savings than by the need to feel comfortable, cared for and knowing you’re in good hands.
Learn from B2C
As I have talked about extensively, the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) market is completely reshaping the way all business is done. It used to be that selling to businesses (B2B) was fact-driven and risk-averse, and only B2C was where you’d find impulsive, emotionally driven purchases. Not anymore. This is a B2All world now. The consumer experience informs all our transactions now.
B2B buyers today expect the same kind of experience buying industrial supplies as they do buying baby supplies, groceries and pet food online from Amazon. They expect the companies that they do business with will have a buying process that keeps pace with trends in the market place.
Look at ways that you can make your selling process more personable. Differentiate yourself from competitors by being the only one who offers free consulting on the products or services you sell, offer personalized training as part of a service package, invite your customers to an advisory board meeting or to be part of a focus group, thank your customers by referring them to other customers
Consider this example. One client of mine works in the highly competitive, razor-thin margin leasing business. They discovered that amid this crowded market, there was a deep deficit of trust between customer and seller. The fact that their sales team relied on making phone calls to close deals only served to irritate and alienate their customers. So they changed their process. They adopted live video conferencing. The outcome: steady, exponential sales growth with closing rates that were steadily above average. Ultimately it positioned the company to be a lucrative acquisition by a leading financial institution.
So far in this series, we’ve talked about product and process as methods you can adopt in any business to become a stand-out performer. In the third and final part of this series, we’ll look at how rethinking the way you work with people can also play a vital role in accelerating your sales.