FUTURE PROOFING YOUR BUSINESS – IT’S TIME TO LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMER’S NEEDS

Karen Woodhead, Director of Marketing, at leading sales and negotiation specialists, Huthwaite International, the team behind the world-famous SPIN® Selling, reveals how organisations should future-proof their businesses.

You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times. The digital age has transformed the sales arena. And, as many are looking to technology and new sales approaches to adapt their business, a continued focus on quality customer service and added value is at risk of being overlooked.

The digital age arrived in tandem with globalisation. Globalisation saw a greater focus on cost reduction such as outsourcing and offshoring.  Has this led to a loss in quality and value for the customer? Many would argue yes. And it’s a key consideration for sales professionals. Whilst many feel the digital age must be accommodated and that’s certainly borne out by the increase in digital and social selling activity – there is also a growing need for a more focused and human approach to selling.

The rise in demand for organic produce, ethical business practices and locally sourced product is no coincidence. Society is breaking away from traditional capitalist behaviour and instead looking to feel more human again. Enter the ‘hipster’ movement – people looking to re-connect in an overly digital world.

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So, what does all of this mean for sales? A rise in digital products and services, should never mean the fall of quality customer service – and that includes sales. The savvy consumer now requires more than just a cost-effective product or service, they want a cost-effective solution.

Buyers – whether consumer or corporate – want to feel important, like they matter. As globalisation and digital connectivity has risen so too has our need for individual acknowledgement. We want the bespoke approach.

We see this time and time again in contemporary marketing. From the success of the personalised Coca-Cola bottle, to the multi-million-pound budget channelled into bespoke digital marketing. If it isn’t bespoke, it isn’t of interest.

Does this mean our product offering need to change? Thankfully no. But whilst your product may not be bespoke, your approach to selling it can be.

The real priority for salespeople is to position their products as solutions. It’s nothing new but it’s still a widely neglected part of the selling process. Where historically you may have sold features or even benefits, it’s now more important now than ever, to adopt a more consultative approach.

Before jumping into a sales pitch, get to know your customer’s needs. What are the issues they are facing, what is it they want from your product or services? This information is vital – whether you’re making a multi-billion-pound deal or selling a chocolate bar. If you don’t understand the needs of your customer, simply put, you don’t know what you’re selling.

Let’s take the high value sale as an example. Is your customer buying it to save money in the long term, or to increase revenue in the short term? Are they buying it to replace an existing obsolete model? Or to replace jobs previously done by people. Purchase drivers can be more varied and complex than these simple illustrations but you get the idea.  The lesson is, ascertain the answer and you can position your product more persuasively.

It may be the high value product you’ve sold a million times, but you’re selling it to an individual every time – change your sales approach to accommodate their needs.

We desire greater recognition of our humanity and individuality. The seller who recognises and responds to this through will differentiate for more effectively than the seller who doesn’t.

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