At some point in your the sales cycle your prospect has decided they have a need, hopefully because of your world class probing skills. As you try to help them move from need, through analysis and finally decision time…just what are they thinking?
At a conscious, or subconscious level buyers are always trying to get comfortable with the balance of performance, image and price (PIP). Think of these three drivers as concepts that are perceived differently by each of us. Also understand that perceptions change over time. In our current economy we must all recognize that the relationship between these three drivers will be changing dramatically. Marketing must understand these shifts and adapt products and messages that will be appealing. Sales will have to rework sales presentations, ask new questions and think more about the answers they are hearing.
So what are these three concepts and how should I deal with them?
- Performance – for consumers this concept is going to change dramatically. Think about the most expensive purchase a consumer makes…a home. Bigger is better is a dead concept. Consumers will not sacrafice long commutes to work in trade for a McMansion. Certainly families form, expand and contract so actual space needs will change. But the concept, bigger is better is gone. For business buyers there will be a similar shift. Product/service claims will all be tracked. Proof will be examined. Investments that will not deliver a return for years will not be purchased. If you thought companies were short sighted before, you haven’t seen anything yet!
- Image – this concept is alive and well. Right? Image is alive and well but constantly changing. For consumers the image is more about what something means to me. For the homebuyer they may want a smaller home closer to work, but they will still want that home packed with what is important to them and their lifestyle. Some images may become anti-conspicuous. Is the Prius the new BMW? If you don’t think companies will change their views on image I have one question for you. Would you apply for a job selling corporate aircraft today?
- Price – despite the tone of this posting I do not believe that price will come before all other drivers, but price must make sense. Consumers may be ready and willing to buy, but are wary about their ability to buy. Staying with the home purchase example there is pent up demand for quality newer homes, but the fear of the unknown continues to keep these buyers on the sidelines. Hyundai has done an excellent job in addressing this fear with their recent Assurance Plus program. For businesses there will be a categorical shift. If your product is directly related to their product/service core offering then your value proposition will get traction. If you cannot prove this direct correlation, price will become more important to the buyer.
So the buying process is the same, more difficult certainly. The shift will be in the buyer’s perceptions and balancing of performance, image and price is going to change dramatically for the next several years. Consumer preferences will shift and so will business buyer’s. If your sales presentation was about performance & image and you dismissed pricing as an issue, you are going to have a very difficult time in the coming months.
Archimedes said “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.” I have always loved that quote, but for the time being the earth is shifting and so should your sales approach.