Buying From You (Jim Karrh On Marketing)

by Jim Karrh  on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 12:00 am  

Jim Karrh

What is it like to buy from your company?

I have been reminded of this seemingly simple question during the past few weeks while presenting to two groups on customer service, prepping conversations for a nationally dispersed sales force, and even re-examining my own outbound marketing tactics.

The question is simple in concept yet tough to answer objectively. Most of us are thoroughly versed in the steps we take in marketing to, servicing and generally chasing after customers. It’s unfortunately common that companies lose focus on how those activities play out on the other side. One symptom is that I hear the term “selling cycle” from clients much more often than I hear “buying process.”

In a previous column (“Building Loyalty Among Business Buyers,” Nov. 21, 2011) I shared with you research from the Corporate Executive Board that proves how important the buyer’s experience is. When it comes to loyalty — keeping those customers you were able to snare — the buying experience matters more than price, brand and product performance combined.

How can you create that game-changing experience for your buyers?

First, let’s break down the components — from the B2B buyer’s point of view — that make for a valuable and loyalty-producing experience:

• “They offered me a new and valuable perspective.” Buyers appreciate sellers who tell them something they didn’t know or could not easily find on their own (things relevant to their business, not the seller’s). That might be some trends in their industry, the implications of a looming regulation or just an objective lens through which the buyer can better understand an upcoming decision. Such a perspective makes the buyer feel smarter and less anxious.

• “They helped me evaluate alternatives.” No, a seller is never going to be an unbiased adviser. Nevertheless, an excellent marketer can help a buyer compare products and solutions that might otherwise appear like so many apples and oranges.

• “They helped me navigate internal politics” and “They helped me build support across the organization.” These related issues reflect the increasingly complex buying processes in many organizations. Prospective sellers must not only make nice with everyone from executives to procurement, they must also be able to reframe the value proposition in multiple ways.

• “They educated me about issues and outcomes.” A valuable buying experience lowers uncertainty and perceived risk. Excellent sellers are ready to speak to issues such as implementation, training needs and service scenarios. They are similarly armed with success stories involving other customers whom the prospective buyer considers similar to them.

• “They were personally easy to buy from.” This component is probably one you’d consider to be straight out of Persuasion 101 — being likable, approachable, trustworthy, responsive and clearly focused on the buyer’s needs.

How would you rate your organization’s success in creating this level of buyer experience? I find that more companies and teams emphasize the final component (“personally easy to buy from”) more than the other components.



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