There’s no denying that buyers are empowered. It’s one of the most significant shifts in economic history. Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School, describes it as “an enormous global power shift from producers to consumers, from those who make to those who buy.”
That’s why selling today is different than it was a decade ago. It’s why buyers rate only 19% of meetings with sellers as valuable (Forrester) and take themselves 67% of the way through the buying process before meeting with a seller (CEB). It’s why sellers and sales organizations must adapt to interact differently with buyers.
Consumer trends expert Michael Dart put it this way… “If you want to win their pocketbooks, you have got to figure out how to get to them first, faster and more often ahead of all your equally compelling competitors OR have such an awesome connecting experience that they will go out of their way to come to you.”
You can keep doing what you’re doing. More sales enablement tools. More grind. More urgency. More measures to outshine your competition. More price cuts to win those deals.
You can do something different to reclaim your competitive advantage. You can adapt to this Age of the Empowered Buyer and give buyers what they want.
The Empowered Buyer wants a connection that’s special… An experience that’s meaningful… A human-to-human interaction that goes beyond a robotic transaction.
In B2B, only frontline sellers can provide this “awesome connecting experience.”
B2C companies across the globe have been focusing on the Customer Experience for years. But this is relevant in B2B, too. The same empowered consumers B2Cs are catering to are also our B2B buyers. The bar has been raised for all of us in sales.
In B2B sales, we, too, need to think in terms of Customer Experience. We need to make changes to provide the Customer Experience buyers desire.
Customer Experience, as defined in Forbes, is the “cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints” over the entire duration of a buyer’s interaction with an organization. In B2B, Sales is involved in many of those touchpoints.
Touchpoints don’t come from process alone. The Customer Experience is not meant to be impersonal or routinized. That bar has been raised for each and every touchpoint.
Wharton marketing professor Barbara Kahn says creating a good Customer Experience is based on recognizing the importance of providing an emotionally positive experience to buyers.
The “awesome connecting experience” that will cause buyers to come to you is built on touchpoints that are emotionally positive. In B2B, it’s up to sellers to deliver this.
Research abounds to back this up. In Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine wrote that we can “Reach current and potential customers by creating experiences that they perceive as authentic because they happen within them.”
Dr. David Lewis, Director of Mindlab International, explains the neurochemical aim of Customer Experience. He says “Shopping experiences trigger brain activity that creates euphoric moments. These euphoric moments can be triggered by experiencing something unexpected.”
Sellers can deliver something unexpected in every engagement with a buyer. They can trigger a euphoric response and ensure an “awesome connecting experience.” They can stir buyers to action by creating authentic experiences that happen within the buyer.
That’s what we’re researching as part of the movement to Stop Selling & Start Leading™. Buyers are telling us they do not want to be sold. They want to be led to new, exciting possibilities.
By adopting leadership behaviors, we believe sellers can inspire their buyers, challenge the status quo and innovate, enable collaboration, build trust, and encourage long-term customer loyalty.
There are Five Exemplary Practices of Leaders® that we know, from 30 years of research, cause people to willingly follow someone else. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote the book on leadership (literally!). Their work, The Leadership Challenge®, gives us 30 discrete behaviors with those Five Practices.
In others words, we know precisely what leaders need to do in order to lead effectively. The question is: If sellers increase the frequency of those same behaviors, will buyers respond favorably? Will sellers who shift their behaviors be more successful than those who do not?
It sure seems like it. Leaders connect with people. They provide emotionally positive experiences. People respond to them authentically and at a deeper level. That’s what buyers say they want… It’s what the experts tell us sellers must deliver.
Currently, we’re surveying B2B buyers about the impact of all 30 behaviors. At the time of this publication, the results are not yet in. Rather than speculating here, we’ll stick to what we already know and hope you’ll stay tuned for more to come very soon.
We know buyers yearn for an “awesome connecting experience.” We know buyers feel connected to sellers who ask thought-provoking questions and collaborate with them. This buyer research, reported in DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected, validates what CK Prahalad and V Ramaswamy predicted in The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers.
They wrote “We’re entering a ‘bottom-up’ economy in which consumers will migrate to businesses that allow them to be participants in the process of creating what they want.”
This quote shows the contrasting behaviors of sellers and leaders.
Sellers deliver insights, ready-made, to their buyers. They make presentations and hope buyers will like what they created for them.
Leaders co-create insights, allowing others to participate in creating what they want. They enable and ennoble others’ contributions. They collaborate to draw out the best from others.
When we listen to what buyers are asking us to do, it becomes quite clear. They want us to Stop Selling and Start Leading. Doing so requires behavior changes and a willingness to lead.
For more information about the Stop Selling & Start Leading movement, visit this People First Productivity Solutions web page.