The salesperson’s role is changing, from selling a product to a customer, to selling new ideas to the customer; ideas that will change the customer’s life, or way of doing business, for the better. While there’s normally a product involved, the product is becoming less central to the sales process, and instead, becomes more involved as these newly-accepted ideas are implemented.
Yes, the product is still important. But what matters most to the customer is receiving new ideas, and leadership on how they can make the complex parts of their lives simpler, make their lives easier, and make their lives better. The companies and sales people that can deliver these ideas and provide that thought leadership are the companies and salespeople who’ll succeed in the future.
Let’s look at two examples.Many of us associate Apple Computer with their innovative, intuitive products. But when you walk into an Apple store, those great products are not the centerpiece. The focal point in every
Apple Store is the “Genius Bar.”
Inside their stores, Apple isn't primarily promoting products. They're selling ideas, expertise and leading customers toward doing things in ways that are simpler and easier to make improvements in their lives. Yes, their customers buy plenty of i-products, but it’s the knowledge, the thought leadership around different ways of doing things that define the Apple stores.
A recent New York Times article cites Hy-Vee is the only grocery chain in the country that posts a registered dietitian in almost every one of its 235 stores.
“That puts it at the forefront of a phenomenon sweeping the grocery business as it tries both to capitalize on growing consumer awareness of the role food plays in health and wellness and to find new ways to fend off competition from specialty markets like Whole Foods and big-box stores like Walmart.”
In other words, Hy-Vee sees a competitive advantage in offering expert advice beyond the product. These dieticians in the grocery stores are there to help the customer make improvements in their lives, by seeing foods differently and by consuming foods differently. Yes, the customers do leave the store with groceries; the product on the shelf may no longer be the real product that Hy-Vee customers are buying.
Why is this happening? What’s driving it?
Products today are becoming more similar to one another, and more commoditized. Customers today can learn a whole lot about a product through researching it on the Internet, before ever going into the store, or engaging with the company that sells the product. Therefore, the salesperson that’s a “product expert” is less relevant than he or she used to be. To attract customers into a store to make a purchase, a business must provide something beyond the product, or product knowledge.
So, what does this mean to you if you’re business owner, manager or salesperson in a business that sells products similar to those of a competitor? For starters, think about how you can change your approach to selling, and how your product can fit into your customers’ lives in ways that are different from how they currently do things.
Do you and your salespeople focus beyond the product, and think of the challenges that arise, when a customer uses your product?
With groceries, a common challenge is preparing a meal that’s fast, easy and nutritious. The challenge becomes greater, when customers need to plan an entire week’s worth of meals that fit those criteria. Hy-Vee gives their customers direct access to dietary thought leaders and their expertise to lead their customers toward new ways to solving these problems. How can you take the same approach within your business?