Early Customer Buying Process in a Social World

A long time ago I was a rookie, starting my first employment as a sales rep travelling around by car trying to sell CAD software from Autodesk. The first day at work my boss told me: “I will manage our existing customers in this town and up to a radius of 50 km. But you will only visit potential customers outside that border. Try to make as much awareness as you can. Good luck!”. Without fear or hesitation, I started out.

And I failed. I went back to my office where my boss was waiting for me. Thinking he was disappointed. Surprisingly he was not. He just turned me around and sent me out on the road again. His words of wisdom ground in my head: “That’s terrific Stefan; invest first, harvest later”.

He was right. A couple of years later I was appointed being the best Autodesk sales rep in the Nordics. The truth was, I didn’t sell anything for one and a half year. But what I did to succeed was controlling my opportunities. I was not trying to sell if the potential customer wasn’t ready to buy. I got cred and loyality instead. My style was highly consulative providing advices to needs. And I was always having two or three times more open opportunities in my pipe than my colleagues.

This was in the real world, long before the word “social” became digital. However, in today’s cyberspace social world, it would just been the same. Trying to understand potential customer’s pains, convert them to needs and controlling the needs not being mapped to any else than your products or services.

Many enterprises’ sales reps complains their customers’ buying process has gone 70% before the rep is even contacted for the first time, but that’s just a bad excuse not being on the forums, social medias, groups and blogs. Understanding pains early is a prerequisite since the customer according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs will not go ahead buying anything until they are ready doing so.

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds

Basic physiological needs for a customer’s mid level manager may be fixing the promises she has made coming true. How could you help in that? Clever insights of her situation and what you may deliver are really valuable. Listen carefully and provide those advices in a faithful and humble way. Provide advices that make her be safe fulfilling her objectives, not yours and you will experience an openess you rarely have met before.

In fact, in a digital social world it’s much easier getting in touch with potential customers. For example by simply responding to a certain question with valuable comments in a niche industry forum. In my early days as a sales rep that had meant plenty of cold calls reaching anybody interested of what I had to say.

Supervising the social media for pains gives you control over potential customers’ early stage in their buying process. But since you would not actually do any hard core selling, and you sooner or later need to show result as a sales rep, you will need volume. You need to throw a lot apples up in the air. For sure, when they are mature they would be falling down – but you never know when or what apple that will fall first – but it doesn’t matter. When they do: you will stand there to catch them. And they will not discuss the price.

And that’s all you want, isn’t it?

Best Regards / Stefan

Download the Sales Scenario App for iPad.

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