Your Customers Now Control the Buying Process Far More Than You Control the Sales Process

Customers are in the driver's seat

In their report Use Behavioral Marketing to Up the Ante in the Age of the Customer, Forrester Research made what I thought was a fascinating point:

“Customers now control the buying process far more than today’s vendors control the selling process.”

The report continues to argue that today’s buyers are demanding. They have access to all the information they think they need to know, most of it at their fingertips through smartphones.
Most marketing teams are struggling to keep up.

The study concludes with three essentials for growing sales in today’s economy:

  1. A customer-obsessed approach to defining marketing and sales strategy.
  2. An in-depth understanding of customer behaviors and needs.
  3. A customer engagement strategy that is calibrated to those behaviors and needs.

What the study is saying, in essence, is what I’ve been advocating for years:

  • Be Customer-Centric – Be obsessed by what it feels like to be your customer and experience your organization at each point along the buying cycle.
  • Show Up Differently – Create a single, unique point of distinction that provides a competitive edge for you in the marketplace.
  • Demonstrate Value – Craft a compelling story that develops customer engagement and emotional connectivity.

This changes the role of marketing significantly.

Marketing owns a bigger piece of the “selling process.” Guiding the buyer through the early stages of the buying process was traditionally the role of sales. Now it starts with your company’s marketing. Anything less will fail to engage customers. Additionally, this new marketing process requires an outside-in approach, calibrated to the buyer’s wants and needs, shifting the focus from content that details features and benefits to engagement that informs, persuades and convinces.

This also changes the sales process from "information" oriented to "insight" driven—and the sales materials that your team uses has to reflect this. In other words, sales tools and collateral has to help deliver wisdom to their customers rather than mere facts and features.

How will your marketing and sales evolve in 2014 to reflect the changing position of your customers?

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