This has created the need for a massive shift in the mindset of any “expert” trying to sell to a well-informed consumer.
Don’t think such a mindset shift is necessary? Consider the inevitable result of a transaction where your customer knows at least as much about your product as you do and has decided that it is the likely solution to their problem. It might sound like a great problem to have, but the fact is that it leaves you only point of difference to bargain with – price. And everyone knows that competing on price is no longer a sustainable competitive advantage.
So what approach do you take when your customer comes to you armed with knowledge and you don’t want to be immediately backed into a corner negotiating your price?
Offer insights. Knowing “the answer” to the problem doesn’t guarantee that implementing that knowledge is as simple and straightforward as it might seem to the non-expert. Even in cases where you genuinely know more than the customer, remember, they always know more than you about how your product suits their individual needs and priorities. Therefore, what you want to do is offer valuable insights into how they can make your solution the ideal fit for their situation.
Challenge them. This is all about ensuring that the knowledge your customer has armed themselves with is addressing their real, underlying problems, not just treating their symptoms. Don’t resort to “order taking” - simply giving them what they ask for straight away. Instead, use your expertise to challenge them and uncover whether or not they’ve defined the problem correctly. If you’re asking them questions that they haven’t even considered yet, you’re on the right track. Avoid questions that are an attempt to “show off” your knowledge just for the sake of it. These types of questions frequently backfire and are often perceived as the equivalent of “Would you like fries with that?”
Help them decide. Even when someone has come to you ready to make a purchase, they’re looking for validation of their decision. There is always an emotional component to any purchase and people want to be confident that they’re making the right decision. By showing genuine interest in helping them get it right instead of launching into a typically self-interested sales pitch, you’ll not only build immediate rapport and trust, you’ll also lay a foundation for a relationship that extends beyond the current transaction.
These strategies do require a significantly shift in mindset. However, the shift in the balance of power between buyers and sellers brought on by the information age means that everyone will have to find better ways of applying their expertise to meeting the needs and priorities of their customers. Those who do a better job of offering insights, asking challenging questions and genuinely helping their customers will inevitably come out ahead.