The Internet has changed the entire buying process – and it affects you, even if you don’t sell anything on-line. Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2006, put it this way:
"Buyers have always had a buy cycle, starting at the point they perceive a need. Sellers have always had a sales cycle, starting at the point they spot a prospect. It used to be that these were in sync … but now, the buy cycle is often well under way before the seller is even aware there is a cycle."
Customers still need to deal with businesses, but now they do it differently.
In the past, when they wanted to buy something important, they would start by talking to a professional, preferably somebody they already knew, liked and trusted. This adviser would then take them on a journey, guiding them to the right buying decision.
That’s no longer the case.If you’re an expert, you might want people to turn to you first, but they don’t. Instead, they first ask Google. And then perhaps they will ask their Facebook and LinkedIn friends. Or send a tweet to their followers. Or be guided by an e-mail newsletter or blog they read recently. At the end of this process, they might still choose to talk to you, but now the interaction is very different. Information is power, and the customer now has all the power.
Of course, some of your long-term clients do still call you first. But many don’t. That’s why you have to be there consistently in their minds, so that when they’re ready to take action, you’re the first person they call.
That’s easier said than done, because you don’t know exactly when the buying process started. So the only way to be there is to always be there.
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