Last month we considered the common plight of the B2B sales organisation around getting the sales staff down the retail outlet end of the value chain to recommend their products preferentially against cheaper/inferior alternatives?  I put it to you that the more the technical application knowledge and customer education aspect of the product in question, the greater the chance  that the sales people tend to talk up the product feature techno-babble.  Both, the manufacturer’s sales people in educating/selling the downstream retail sales people … and then , in turn, those retail sales people with their consumer customers.

What opportunity is often missed as a result?  In retail environments where there is a technical knowledge transfer that comes with the use or application of the products on sale, the sales conversation pendulum still swings too far towards the sales professional reacting and responding to the customer’s perceived needs/wants/knowledge.  Have we become spooked by Google…over thinking how much customers teach themselves before they come into our stores?  For example, in retail pharmacy, statistics show that when you approach the medicines counter 85% of the conversation into which your sales professional will engage you will be led by the customer, leaving only 15% where the sales professional prompts and proacts…challenging the customer’s perceptions and teaching them things they did not know.  Not only about the product up for sale, but tracked back to the product application and the fundamentals of the customer s problem being solved. Herein lies your sales team effectiveness.  Think about this principle in retail hardware. And other retail environs where there is a technical aspect of the product/application.

Prompting and proacting in this situation … leading the conversation beyond reacting and responding to the customer agenda … places greater control for the sales professional to provide the customer with a differentiated and wow experience (your sales team effectiveness).  It also wrests some control from the customer who will be able to , when the conversation is in react / respond mode be able to commoditise the process and drive it down to a transactional and price discount level.  Bottom line…

  • Leverage the first part of the customer conversation, likely to put the sales professional into react/respond mode, to springboard into seizing the initiative and prompt and proact with the customer
  • Challenge their (mis) perceptions as appropriate and teach them things they do not know about the product or application type
  • Differentiate the experience for the customer
  • Hold the line on value added and avoid the transactional / price vortex