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VOL. 36 | NO. 34 | Friday, August 24, 2012

Sellers must adapt or lose market share

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A significant shift in buyer behavior has occurred over the last several years – a shift that has not only changed the very essence of the role of salesperson but how we market to consumers as well.

The origin of this shift is three-fold – the role the Internet plays in informing buyers, a new paradigm in group decision-making, and an increasing expectation for a heightened customer buying “experience.”

Our 24/7 access to the Web coupled with our growing reliance upon the Internet as our primary source of new product information has caused a significant change in buyer behavior.

No longer reliant upon salespeople for basic product information, the role of the sales rep has changed dramatically.

Once thought of as sought-after subject matter experts, in many business categories salespeople have been relegated to the role of order-taker as consumers are armed with so much information before they ever engage a member of the sales team.

For salespeople to maintain relevance, they must offer consumers more specialized support and leverage more advanced up-sell and cross-sell techniques.

To further complicate matters, a large percentage of consumers now first turn to social media networks for product and service input from their friends and acquaintances before visiting websites or conducting a Google search.

We can no longer assume that buyers make decisions in isolation.

The old model of one salesperson overcoming the objections posed by a single buyer rarely holds true these days.

We now must look at most buyers as being part of a network where collaborative decisions are made. The key is in figuring out the networks where your buyers spend their time online, so that you are present and an active part of the conversation.

Once a short list of top providers has been collected, then consumers make first contact with expectations being high. Today’s consumer puts perhaps as much emphasis on the overall buying “experience” as they do the features and benefits of the product or service they’re purchasing.

Sellers must therefore figure out how to humanize the buying experience and create a real connection with prospective buyers.

The difference between products and services these days is so narrow that your brand experience may be your best opportunity to stand out in the marketplace.

The implications of these three shifts in buyer behavior are enormous for business owners and marketers. They shake the very foundation of the sales process to which we’ve all become accustomed. In the end, we must adapt or lose market share.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing, www.redrovercompany.com, with offices in Memphis and Nashville. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).