How Smart are Your Customers?

by | Jun 14, 2013 | Negotiating

Several years ago a client asked for a copy of our contract and then asked me to come back 2 days later so he could give me his feedback. When I returned for the second visit he handed me the contract with nothing but red ink covering the entire contract. When I asked him about his concerns, he spent the next 45 minutes telling me his terms for doing business with his company! Has that ever happened to you?

No surprise – today’s customers have changed. They are smarter, more educated on the purchases they make, and they know their options. Technology has taken the business world to new heights. It no longer takes a week to do research – with just a few mouse clicks, more information than you can possibly read is on your screen.

Yes, the internet has changed our lives. Customers have become experts over night, or at least they think they have. Your prospects and customers now know about you and your company. This is one important reason to be strategic and careful about posting on social media, including LinkedIn and Facebook.

Now, they have a new advantage going into the first meeting. Of course you should have done the same – know about your prospects and customers before you arrive; don’t expect them to spend their valuable time educating you on their business or industry. That ease of information works both ways!

In Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human he talks about today’s buyers and sellers. In the past the mantra was “buyer beware” or “Caveat Emptor” as Daniel reminds. Just think about going to buy a used car or in today’s terminology “pre-owned”. What do you know about the car? In the past very little specific information was available except the mileage and any remaining warranty. And, if you were really lucky you might find some maintenance records in the glove box.

Come back with me to the purchase of my first car. A 1964 Impala with the 3 speed shift on the column. We bought it from my dad’s friend so I thought it had to be a great deal! $500 for a 6 year old car with just 33,000 miles on it. A steal! My dad pointed out how worn out the clutch pedal looked but I just ignored it.

At college, the car started to give me problems. Then one day while getting gas I noticed the oil change sticker on the side of the door. To my surprise it said 83,000 miles! I’ve been had; I told my dad! They turned the mileage back 50,000 miles. Buyer beware!

Not today. Today’s mantra according to Daniel is “Caveat Venditor”. Seller beware! No longer does the sales person have the advantage – information is everywhere. If you go to CarMax today, the entire history of every vehicle is given with the car. You won’t have to wonder any more. Customers are in control – they have almost the same information that the seller has.
Today transparency and being direct is the more pragmatic route for selling. The customer is smarter than ever before.

But you are still an expert on your solutions.

You still influence the buyer’s decision by providing objective information and by helping them evaluate their options.

You do your job full time while the customer is researching a solution with their limited time and knowledge.

Demonstrate that you are still the expert – you have years of experience, easier access to resources and information.

You understand the trends and opportunities available.

In a ‘seller beware’ culture, you have to realize that the customer knows more than you think. And they still need your expertise to arrive at the best buying decision. Be their partner; give them objective guidance and take what they know and build on it.