Introducing Your New Sales Representative – Google
Do you remember when you first started in sales and you learned the basic sales model (Discover-Evaluate-Purchase-Support)? For the most part, this model is still valid today. However, there is one small, yet important, difference between then and now: Google. Before, a sales representative would handle just about every step of the process. He / she would discover new customers, then work with them as they asked questions and evaluated the product / service, and eventually convince the customers to purchase the product. As long as you had a good sales team that could connect with customers, you did well. In addition, as long as you supported them well enough, they would stay.
Google is the new Account Representative
Fast forward to today. Like I said, these areas are still the same, but now instead of a skilled sales rep interacting with your current and potential customers, you have a computer screen. What do I mean? Well, what did you do the last time you were interested in in particular item or service? You probably looked it up on Google. (95% of corporate purchasing agents use the web to research products and services before selection according to a study by Enquiro). After you found the company's website, you probably also looked at the other links your Google search returned, including blog and feedback posts by other customers who had already used the product or service. Assuming you were still interested, you downloaded a trial version, installed it, and started playing around with it or downloaded there latest article or white paper. You may have even checked out more blogs and message boards to ask specific questions about the product / service to find out others' experiences and feedback. Finally, you decide you like the product, so you click the activate link, enter your payment info into the site, and purchase the full product.
Sound familiar? Did you notice that you went through the first three areas without ever interacting with an employee of the company who makes the product or offers the service? As many people know, my customers telling you I'm great is much better than me telling you I'm great. The opposite is also true. Moreover, with the extreme ease that peoples' opinions can become wide spread through twitter, blogs, and other social media, these comments are now more important? than ever.
So customers are more empowered than ever with information about not just your product, but also your company and the way you have treated others. Kinda scary is not it ?. So / But what does it mean?
"I bought it because I use it"
For starters, we've moved to a new level of buying. A customer will buy your product because they're using it and it does what they want, rather than using a product because they bought it. Also, notice the immense impact these changes have on how important the Support area has become. It was always a good idea to keep your customers happy, but now it's not only required, it's a must. As Ken Blanchard would say, you want your customers to become raving fans. Raving fans tell their friends and post blogs and feedback to share with anyone who will listen. They essentially do your marketing for you free. When a potential customer does that initial Google search, you want them to see the blog posts from your raving fans. If you have angry customers instead of raving fans, guess what that initial search will bring back. What Ken called "A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service" back in 1993 is once again in demand in 2010.
Customer Service is the new marketing. Or should I say Customer Service is the "renewed marketing". Many top brands know this instinctively and have always had great support. However, for many companies, they need to start treating Customer Service as an investment rather than an expense. The necessary "White Glove" level of service required to create raving fans is more expensive in the short-term, but in the long term, you not only spend less supporting current customers, but their free word-of-mouth marketing will help you add more customers.
Without taking away from the importance of Support, let me say that not all is lost with "Discover, Evaluate, and Purchase." You still have a chance to make an impact with it.
Consider the following points:
- Discover: Online marketing is more important than offline marketing. Youtube, Facebook, and Wikipedia have moved into the top 10 most visited sites. If your marketing efforts can not be found with a search engine, a lot of customers are missing you.
- Evaluate: Your web site must deliver. The web has kind of given us all some form of "ADHD". We spend an average of less than a minute on a page, reading fewer than 12 words or so before we decide to click on to something else. Your site and pages need to be focused and do the job they were intended to do. This sometimes means breaking corporate branding guidelines. Consider using micro-site to deliver these specific messages.
- Purchase: If someone can buy your product without ever interacting with a human, then they can definitely not buy it that way too. That great blog postings and tweeted positive feedback may have convinces a potential customer to download the trial, but now your product has to sell itself. You must have the best product on the market, and for reasons other than price.
The New Sales Model
Things have changed, but the new rules allow for many new and exciting ways to grow and enhance your business and marketing strategies. It also means that companies who can not keep their customers happy are not going to do as well as their competitors with raving fans.
Bottom line: Customer support is the new marketing. Social media has moved much of the control you used to have from your sales rep to the web. My suggestion is to start with an experience audit. See what it's like for your customers to deal with you. If it's not a stellar experience, get some help to make it that way. The best part about the new world of selling is that it runs on happiness. And who does not like to be happy?