For many individuals and businesses the challenge of learning to “Ride the Buy-Cycle” is an ongoing battle of uncoordinated and often misguided baffle.
I use the analogy of "Riding the Buy-Cycle" to point out that its often not the Buying Cycle itself that should be the focus, it’s the way we choose to ride it that matters.
Many seem to determine that where they play in the buying cycle is a matter of market conditions, rather than strategic choice. For instance, many categories are becoming commoditised today, and marketers feel “stuck”, riding the waves of market forces, powerless to consciously and deliberately shift their place or role in the buying cycle.
Conversely, in sales and marketing we still are in some sort of tussle with ourselves about our locus of control over customers and customers’ behaviour.
It’s all very confusing, particularly when you are out there in the heat of battle.
Not only is shifting your role in the buying cycle possible, for many getting deeper into that buying cycle is a matter of long term or even mid-term survival. If you never set out to be in commodity in the first place, falling over is often unavoidable, if you choose to run backwards for long enough.
Make no mistake though, this is not a conceptual discussion, it’s about Sales.
Given almost all of you reading this article are selling something, even if it’s your own skills, I want to make something really clear, your job is not to sell, because for the most part, “Selling”, as many know it, is a direct route to commoditisation.
Effective Selling is increasingly not about “sales", it’s about facilitating a purchase, and yes, there is a massive difference.
Facilitating a purchase is about beginning with empathy for customer wants, needs and aspirations and then working with that customer to resolve the gap between a currently unsatisfying reality and a new satisfied state. It's not overly scientific, for many it occurs instinctively.
Sure, in the old days, the new reality was often defined or redefined by the sales person; this is hardly ever the case today.
As we all know, the key difference between “selling” back then and “selling” now is access to information. This is progressively more pronounced in the buying behaviour of Generation X then Y & now Z.
Whilst information is everywhere and easy to access, the right information is often a very different story. Recent generations take this as a given, and sources of information are now put through a rigorous filter.
So What? Well, here is the real Rub.
The difference between loyalty and transaction, between premium and commodity, between word of mouth referral and being just an alternative, is directly correlated with where in the buying cycle you choose to play?
Think about it……. it’s an important decision.
Are you going to facilitate a purchase, collaborating with customers on appropriate solutions, helping them avoid mistakes; or are you going to try and Sell them something?
Don’t get me wrong, people, normally really smart people, make money in commodity markets, but these are normally the folks actually leading the commoditisation: Kogan for instance.
The trouble I see and hear a lot is far too many companies saying, "well there's plenty of information out there, I guess all we can do is target those people ready to buy now.”
Where you play in the buying cycle is actually a choice. Just as importantly, smarter decisions, that are strongly assisted, are shared. Given that today, word of mouth (WOM) is the most influential factor in customer decision making, this is critical to the growth of your business.
(Just in case) It’s also worth reinforcing that word of mouth is generated by what you do, not by what you say. Brands are, like never before, about behaviour.
In a market that increasingly looks to collaborate around the purchasing process…… Will you:
· Allow customers to collaborate with you?
· Train your people well enough so they can actually add value to decisions?
· Help customers avoid mistakes?
Are you prepared to chance an investment to get deeper into the buying cycle or is the better alternative to simply be an alternative?
I wrote about this in a presentation for well known Pharmaceutical Company in 2009. I couldn’t understand, and still can’t, that whilst consumers continue to Google a diagnosis, why the Pharmacist doesn’t meet them where they are (online), and play a credible role as the “trusted advisor”, deeper in the information hunt.
Instead Pharmacists persist in waiting to be chosen whilst competitors that choose price leadership strategies (Chemist Warehouse), quite literally “tear them a new one”. Further whilst some promote online Doctors (GP2U) on their sites, it’s not an integrated offer with retail, so I have to question the role that this plays helping the customer buy.
As you will have read (or should read) in the Paradox of Choice: for consumers more isn’t actually better, its more complex, it’s harder. So how will you, or indeed will you, offer simplification to your customers and assist them with the process of informed choices?
In the wave of information and complexity, misleading review sites, sponsored posts, nefarious short-term loan businesses and inexcusable bank fees, who are you going to be? Where will you play?
Will you be as good as your last price? An alternative? Or will you actually try and help consumers navigate decisions, avoid mistakes and in turn become a trusted advisor?
Will you FACILITATE the purchase or will you try and SELL?
I like to use analogies, so here is one to remind you of the question I’m asking:
Who makes more money, the Lawyer or the Judge? And who plays where, in the order of things?
PS: I don’t like long posts so here are a couple of related follow up pieces pertinent to this article. Let me know which you are interested in.
· Accelerating the Buying Cycle
· Building a Sales Funnel with minimal leakage
· Collaboration in Facilitated Purchasing; how and why it works.
· Why Gen Y don’t do Sales!
Let me know!
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share.