A study with 1,400 B2B customers across separate industries revealed that almost 60 percent* of a typical purchase decision is made before a customer even talks to a supplier. Customers read up on the subject, compare options, and reject solutions that they don’t believe are for them—without ever giving businesses a chance for a direct encounter.
So, when you enter a meeting, how can you be sure of what the customer wants to talk about—and be prepared for it?
The answer lies in customer-driven processes; which revolve around around meeting customer needs and expectations, and providing the answers their questions. The aim is to not only find out what customers think and feel—but to find out why they do so…and then build a solution on that basis.
Here are seven tips for creating meetings and dialogues that to a larger extent are driven by the customer—not the seller.
1. Listen, and let the customer lead the way.
Go to the meeting with the attitude that you are there to learn about the client and their industry. Listen to what the customer has to say and try to understand the challenges, problems, buyer role and opportunities they face before you suggest a solution. Only when you have created some degree of trust can you really start thinking about your solutions.
2. Sell what the customers need, not what they want to buy.
Before your sales meeting, customers have already identified their problems and have chosen you—and a number of other companies—as potential suppliers to the solution. The customer is obviously an expert in their field, but their perceived problems may actually have a deeper, underlying cause that they themselves fail to see.
Rephrasing or repositioning the problem helps you to find the prospect’s actual needs. If you do succeed in doing so, you have also eliminated the competition, because you’ve established yourself as the only provider of that specific solution—the answer to a problem your client’s identified because of their meeting with you.
3. Sell what the customers need, not what you want to sell.
If you know in advance what you want to sell to the customer, the meeting will become one long waiting game until you finally introduce the solution. You will miss important information, end-up in price discussions, and in the worst case scenario, simplify the issues and take shortcuts around the truth.
The customer meeting isn’t simply a marketplace for you to sell and the customer to buy. As a supplier, it’s your responsibility to identify what the customer really needs, and then present them with a solution only you can provide.
4. It’s all about the customer, not the industry.
The sales persons’s material should follow and support an interactive dialogue as the rep answers the questions that inevitably arise. The conversations are always about the questions and answers, problems and opportunities, related to the specific customer—not about the industry at large. This puts tougher requirements on the presentation collateral brought to the meeting.
5. Bring all your sales material to the meeting.
Today, customers often are well informed on possible solutions and suppliers. That means there’s a huge risk that the sales conversation will go beyond the presentation and the supporting documents the seller has brought to the table.When no one knows in advance where the discussion might go, there is only one solution. That is to equip your sales team with the digital tools that allow them to come to the meeting with all available information—not putting them in the awkward and time-consuming position of having to e-mail the requested documents later.
6. Share your information.
Be generous with information. Make sure that during the meeting the sales rep can e-mail whatever information and documents that the customer needs to understand your solution more thoroughly, or to help them present it to their colleagues and managers.
7. Be open to feedback.
If you are creating sales presentations you’ll definitely be updating them after your meetings with the new knowledge and insights the meeting gave you. Customer-driven conversations and presentations are built upon the same method.Be open to feedback and make good use of it. Perhaps you could have the salesperson ask the customer, directly after the meeting, what they felt was missing in the presentation and discussion, and send the feedback to your CRM system.