How to Overcome Your Greatest Competitor: The Prospective Consumer
By Eric Keiles, Instructor of the ProThink Learning online course The Cyclonic Buyer’s Journey: Marketing Tactics and Tools
You’ve locked in the sale. After contemplating and debating over the dozens of cereals on the grocery store shelf, the shopper selects yours. Congratulations! But now your prospective consumer is sitting in the check-out line staring at your cereal, thinking “What on earth is an ‘Ancient Grain’?” and decides to set the box aside.
Unfortunately, this is a pain that many companies know all too well, victims of abandoned online shopping carts and fallen-through sales.
In the Rationalization stage of the buyer’s journey, consumers compete with themselves. They’ve gone from “one of many” to “one of few” to “the one.” When they have other explicit options to compare you to, your buyer focuses on how you stack up against other providers. When they have nothing to compare you to, it’s easier for doubt to creep in. Am I making the right choice? Is this the absolute best option? Is it really worth the cost?
Make Yourself the Rationalizable Option
Buyers need to justify their decision, so make sure you are communicating the right messages that will help them rationalize their resolution to take a risk on you. Tell them why they’re making the right choice. Here, you have three major focal points:
1. Make sure you know what their internal rationale checklist looks like and that you’re actively working to resolve any concerns.
A 2017 study examining the sources of buyer’s remorse among 230 business-to-business (B2B) buyers from a variety of industries, functions, and demographics found that the following reasons were the most prominent sources of purchase dissatisfaction:
· Bought more than needed: 13%
· Bought less than needed: 13%
· Didn’t do enough research during sales cycle: 11%
· Didn’t negotiate the best price/discovered a price decrease: 9%
· Focused on the short term at the cost of the long term: 8%
· External deadline/pressure: 7%
In other words, more than 60% of the time neither the product nor the salesperson was to blame for a regretted purchase. The buyers blamed themselves.
Your goal isn’t just to make the sale; you want to ensure that the client will be satisfied with their decision over the lifetime of your relationship. An important tool you can use to give your buyers this contentment is investing the time beforehand to ensure there’s no buyer’s remorse, regardless of the source.
Invest Time in Your Consumer
Take the time to walk through each and every aspect of your product or the proposed agreement. This time investment will indicate to your buyers that you are dedicated and trustworthy partners. It will allow you to assuage many of your consumers’ fears before they even reach the Rationalization stage and make your company the obvious choice.
Don’t make your consumer deal with pushy salespeople. Instead, let the major correspondents be the content experts of your material rather than just sales reps. For instance, if you are establishing a data center for another company, let actual trained and certified engineers be the people to walk buyers through your plans and proposals. This will allow your prospective consumers to better connect with you because they can better communicate with people that speak their language.
Give the time and effort to understand if your company will provide a solution that supports your buyer’s growth. Be endlessly patient, addressing every single minute detail, worry, and concern. Not only does this explicitly address the customer’s fears, it implicitly says, “We’re available. We want to help. We know our stuff. We want a relationship. We plan to stick around.” It helps the buyer feel that, even if something does come up, they’re not going to have to deal with it alone.
2. Be honest and explicit about whatever you can’t solve; set their expectations.
If you don’t have an answer, let your client know you don’t, then go and find one. If the customer wants something you can’t deliver, don’t pretend you can. If there is some kind of unavoidable risk, don’t gloss it over but bring it up yourself. When was the last time a salesperson told you what your objections should be? Instant credibility.
This is especially important in our digital age where information is readily available. Consumers don’t call the Better Business Bureau to see if you’ve had any complaints; they just go online to some review site or see how many Amazon stars you have. Pretending that an obvious problem doesn’t exist is like hiding behind a lamppost. It’s funny when a child does it but concerning when it’s an adult.
Addressing your buyer’s objections before they even raise them earns you their trust. Highlighting an issue that your product or service can’t solve earns you their admiration, especially if you beat them to the punch. It is lamentable that such honesty is noteworthy, but because it is, you can use it to your advantage.
3. Give your consumers outside sources of information they feel they can trust.
In a 2017 survey, tech research firm Trust Radius investigated which sources of information B2B buyers found the most helpful in making their purchase decisions. Here were the top ranked sources:
1. Free trial or account
2. Product demo
3. Peer referral
4. User reviews
5. Sales reps and their presentations tied with customer references
One source you’ll notice missing from this list is the vendor’s website. In fact, out of twelve possible information sources, the vendor’s website was ranked the least helpful with vendor collateral just above it.
In another question, Trust Radius asked buyers to rank the trustworthiness of information sources. Unsurprisingly, their answers align with what they found helpful. The least trusted source was vendor collateral, then the vendor’s website, then the sales rep and their presentations.
Our number one takeaway from this insightful survey is that your buyer doesn’t want to hear from you and won’t trust you when they do. They want validation from sources you don’t control: peer referrals, user reviews, customer references, third-party recommendations, analysts, third-party publications, and so forth.
When your buyer is trying to justify choosing you, the best way to influence them is by letting your buyer convince themselves. Here are a few examples of how you can do this:
· Give them the opportunity to try your product or service, like the “freemium” model of many tech startups or Zappos’s legendary return policy.
· Take screenshots of five-star user reviews of your product or service on third-party sites or share the links.
· Get enthusiastic customers to record a testimonial from their phone or laptop to post to YouTube.
· Have a list of loyal clients and customers willing to share their email address or even phone number to act as a reference.
Overcome Your Consumers’ Doubts
It’s important to remember that just because a consumer has discarded your competitors and recognized that your product is the best option for fulfilling their need, your work is not done. You still need to overcome their doubts and second guesses. Your buyer needs to rationalize their decision, so make sure you are telling them why they are making the right choice.