"Beware of the customer revolution" - A discussion between Cian McLoughlin and John Smibert.
Have you noticed that customers are behaving differently?
Customer behaviour guru, Cian McLoughlin, tells us to "Beware of the customer revolution".
And he should know. Cian conducts win and loss reviews with customers every week. There is nobody who better knows how customers are thinking and how they are changing what they expect from sellers throughout their buying journey.
So I asked him what he means by "beware of the customer revolution".
He said "a lot of customers out there are getting sick and tired of some of the outdated sales processes that are impacting them. When they're trying to engage with a vendor or they're trying to potentially buy something or research something, they're on the receiving end of annoying tactics and strategies which just are not designed in any way with the customer in mind. It leaves them but feeling frustrated, feeling angered, and invariably voting with their wallets or voting with their feet and walking away.
I asked Cian how we need to change our selling behaviour - how can we engage more effectively with this revolutionised customer?
View or read the full interview below to learn what your need to do to respond to the customer revolution.
Cian McLoughlin is a guru in win/loss analysis, he's a speaker, an author, and a leading adviser to the sales fraternity.
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John: Welcome back to my Strategic Selling Group members and all other B2B sales and sales leaders out there! Great to have you and great to have Cian McLoughlin with me again.
Cian: Hello, John - nice to be here!
John: Welcome back, Cian. Hey, I've heard you use the words "be aware of the customer revolution". I want to explore that a little bit. What do you mean?
Cian: Well, what I mean by that really is that I think a lot of customers out there are getting really sick and tired of some of the outdated sales processes that are impacting them, and by impacting I mean when they're trying to engage with a vendor or they're trying to potentially buy something or research something, they're on the receiving end of these tactics and strategies which just are not designed in any way with the customer in mind, and leave them not just feeling cold but feeling frustrated, feeling angered, and invariably voting with their wallets or voting with their feet and walking away.
John: So if I'm a sales leader or a sales manager or even a salesperson out there, what are some of those things that you think are turning the customer off, or you know because you're talking to the customers and they tell you?
Cian: There's a couple of things. I'll start with the concept that content is king, and we've heard that a lot. What does that mean? It means that if we're creating really, really good content and we're optimising it for SEO and we're putting it in the right places and we're making it available to customers, it makes it far easier for them to do the research they want to do before they then engage with us.
John: And we're not doing that in a lot of cases?
Cian: Unfortunately we're not, a lot of organisations aren't, and even some of those that are are making a fatal mistake. What they're doing is they're gating their content and requiring customers to jump through hoops in order to get access to... "You must put in your email address or you must put in your telephone number," and then you know you're going to get a call from telesales or an inside salesperson and so you loathe to do that. What they're doing even in that scenario is they're creating really good content, but then they're making it difficult for people to access. What we need to do is actually invert that paradigm, put all of our really good stuff out there for free to engage our market, to educate our market and to make it much more likely that they'll then want to work with us.
John: You talk about the old adage that most customers are 70% through their sales process before they engage with salespeople. I know you don't believe that.
Cian: I think that's complete bullsh**... Apologies for the language...
John: Strike that out, yes. [laughs]
Cian: Yes, but I'll tell you the reason why. There's an accurate piece of information behind it, but it's a flawed concept. Because how do customers get 70% of the way down the funnel? They don't get there on their own; they get there through information, through knowledge, through research, through watching content and through consuming content. So what's happening is instead of them engaging with us in the traditional way that they might have done 5-10 years ago where they've picked up the phone and called us or we went out and met with them, they're getting access to that information in another way.
What that means is if we're not putting our information, our content and our insights out there in the right place, in the right way and it's not being consumed, then you can bet your life that someone else is doing it. Essentially what that means is customers are getting a chunk of the way down the sales funnel, but they're not doing it on their own; they're doing it with access to content, which either comes from us or comes from someone else.
John: So, if they are 70% of the way through their buying journey and they give you a call, what's the message?
Cian: Well, the message is, firstly, "How did you get to where you're at?" and if how you got to where you're at didn't relate to a content that you consumed from our organisation we're in serious trouble, and I'd be qualifying pretty hard to see if there really is an opportunity, or if they've potentially already made up their mind. Because that's the other thing which is really very, very subtle, but the more content you consume from an organisation, the more engaged you are by them and you see them as credible experts, you see them as authorities and you see them as thought leaders. Therefore the selling process is happening very subtly behind the scenes, so if they've got that far down the track and they haven't engaged with you up until that point, you might be in trouble.
John: Okay, so let me try and summarise and you pull me off if I'm wrong.
John: There's a customer revolution that's occurred and the customer is buying in a very different way, but they're not waiting until they're 70% through the buying journey. They're engaging all the way through with vendors, because they're looking at content that people are putting out there of value to help them through the thought process.
Cian: Correct, and that's the revolutionary piece. The piece of the puzzle that I think is missing for a lot of organisations is where that engagement is occurring, and the onus is on us to then ensure that we have the right models in place, the right content in place and the right engagement strategy in place to make it easy to engage with us, to make it easy to learn from us, and not worry about will the competition see it, worry about will the customers see it or will they not see it. That needs to be the onus of responsibility.
John: So this is a message to salespeople I guess but also to selling organisations, to the sales leaders and so on and to the marketing organisations that you really need to think about how the customer is now buying. They've gone through a revolution, and you need to be engaging with them in a different way, through content in this case, to ensure that as they move through their thought process and their buying journey we're with them all the way and helping them through that; even if we haven't, talked to them face to face.
Cian: Correct. There's a really lovely story about Jeff Bezos from Amazon, and the fact that when he has meetings he always leaves a chair free in the meeting room to denote the customer, because the customer needs to be at the centre of everything that Amazon does or that we do. I think if you take that concept and apply it to all the different aspects of your business, it drives a different behaviour. All of a sudden we have the heart of a teacher, all of a sudden we want to add value and we become almost consultants and advisers as distinct from just salespeople. I know intrinsically those two things should be the same, but often they're not.
John: And that really helps us get our intent right, doesn't it?
John: Our intent should be for the customer. Even when we've got a meeting and hear that we've got a complaint about how the customer is not working with us or whatever... When we're using the words internally, we've got to be assuming that the customer is with us, and that will drive the right intent to ultimately get the message to the customer.
John: Cian, customer revolution, I like the concept, great messages there, and to all our sales leaders and salespeople out there, hope you got some value out of that - look forward to having Cian again!
Cian: Thanks, John - nice to be here!
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