“How to Become Your Customers’ Emotional Favourite” is the first in a series of “Closing the Sales Gap” webinars that will be featured regularly on IT Business.

Many sales people make the mistake of giving the same pitch to all potential customers, no matter where they are in the buying process.

Customers fall into three categories, said sales trainer Tibor Shanto at an ITWC webinar for sales and marketing professionals. Ten per cent of customers want to buy within the upcoming quarter. Twenty per cent have a requirement but aren’t likely to move in the next year, and 70 per cent are sticking with the status quo.

“What I see is that we communicate the same with all of them and we lose the opportunity,” said Shanto. “If you want to become their emotional favourite, you need to understand where they are in the journey and meet them there.”

Turning long-term prospects into sales

Sales people should put greater focus on the prospects that are 12 to 18 months from purchasing, said Shanto. “It’s not a question of if they will buy, but when,” he said. “What I see is that sales people focus on the here and the now.” As a result, when a customer isn’t ready to buy, the sales representative writes it off as a bad lead, or makes a note to call back in 10 months, he said.

That’s too late, said Fawn Annan, President of IT World Canada. “Once buyers are actively looking, they are about 50 per cent of the way there before they talk to sales.”

Instead, the sales rep should talk about things the customer wants to talk about. “They don’t care about the product yet,” said Shanto. At this stage, the sales rep should ask why the customer has a 12-month window and what changes they anticipate during that period. “Chances are that some of them will say something that you can then help them with, and you can switch gears,” Shanto said.

Engaging customers during their journey builds a social dynamic along with additional opportunities to meet and to share information that can help lead buyers to the decision you want. “Customers find white papers and explainer videos to be very helpful at this stage,” added Annan.

The myth about satisfied customers

Sales people should not dismiss the large percentage of customers who say they’re happy and not looking for a change. In fact, Shanto has found that there is little correlation between satisfaction and loyalty. Studies show that 75 per cent of customers who leave and switch vendors say there were satisfied or completely satisfied at the time, he said.

“Sales people think that if people are happy with a competitor, the way to engage them is to scare them,” said Shanto. “This is not a good way to start with a customer.” Instead, the sales person should change the focus to something more positive that could spark some curiosity and start a conversation.

A good way to begin is to ask customers about their goals. “Everyone has objectives,” Shanto said. People don’t set out to buy things. They want to achieve results that impact the business.” Shanto advises that sales people should be specific about how they can help the client achieve those results. For example, everyone talks about potential productivity improvements, but “that’s an empty calorie word,” he said. “If you’re going to use it, share an image of how productivity is going to change.”

By understanding what customers are dealing with now and from their point of view, those customers will turn to you when it’s time to buy, said Shanto.

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