We see tremendous research on the digital buying journey. We know customers spend more of their buying journey finding information in digital and other channels. Engagement with sales people represent the smallest part of their time investment. I’ve written about this transformation suggesting we are going through a transformation of sales led, digitally supported to digitally led, sales supported.
Marketers are reveling in this transformation, thinking, “More content, more automation tools, more spending…” Sales people are rejoicing, as well, thinking, “Now we only have to get involved in the end of the process.”
Despite digital interactions, we're humans
So much of our thinking is around automation, digital interactions, and fragmented sales interactions. We respond to the customer drive for a more effective buying journey, by mechanizing the interaction.
I think, we may be losing sight of the fact, that despite the customer leveraging digital channels for much of the learning, it is still a very human process. People are confused, they are often overwhelmed with choice, they struggle to address issues they have never confronted before. They struggle to make sense, both of what’s going on in their own organization and the overwhelming amount of information around solutions. They struggle with making a decision and whether they have done the right thing.
We need to maximize the value we create with human interactions.
Then after they have made the decision, they struggle with remorse, “Have they done the right thing?” It is often less about the solution selection, and more about, “Are they doing the right thing for the business?” Then underlying this is another uncertainty, “Am I doing the right thing for me—for my career, for the work I’m doing, for what I want to achieve.”
We have to remember that despite the desire buyers may have to learn about solutions through digital channels, at it’s core, buying is a very human process.
And this is what all of us in sales need to think about. This is the part of the buying journey that is most important to the customer and where they need the most support. This is where we create the greatest value with our customers.
Helping them understand the opportunity to change their businesses, to improve, to grow. Helping them to understand what the change means to them, organizationally and personally. Helping them do develop confidence, both in improving their understanding of the impact on their business, avoiding mistakes, making sure they are doing what’s right for them. Helping them to understand the risks and how to manage them. Helping them to understand the choices and impact on what they are trying to achieve.
It’s these areas where we have the greatest impact. It’s less about our products and solutions, and more on creating meaning, understanding, and confidence with our customers–people.
I worry that too many sales organizations misread this as the area of greatest value creation. We continue to focus on our products, strategies, and our goals. We continue to mechanize how we sell, focusing less on deep relationships, instead handing the customer from sales role to sales role, maximizing our efficiency.
The buying journey is increasingly digital. It’s effective to learn and explore about alternatives. At the same time, the buying journey is always about people, human being with all their fears, egos, strengths, and weaknesses. We can never lose track of this and do everything we can to maximize the value we create with these human interactions.
Afterword: This post was provoked by a great discussion between Ned Miller and Chris Wallace. Be sure to watch it here.
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.