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What are the characteristics of the customer today in the B2B environment?

The IoD West Surrey Branch sales forum held its second meeting on Thursday 16th July at the Y Centre in Guildford and the topic of discussion was ‘The Customer’.

In brief we wanted to try and describe what today’s customer looks like and what he expects. Some very interesting information was presented by Hugh Stafford-Smith of SABA (7) Consulting who was the facilitator of the meeting.

Like the March Hare, top executives have not got the time; they are under time constraints to produce and therefore what was acceptable many years ago in educating the sales person as to what the company did and the issues it faces are in the main no longer valid. The decision maker expects the sales person to be versed in what the company does, the issues it faces in that particular sector of the market and explain what remedies might be applied to help the customer with the issues he or she are facing. Forget the cosy chat about how ‘in this company we do this and then we do that’. No time!

‘If you do not know what we do, how we do it, the challenges we face, and the solutions to those challenges you can offer with proof that they have worked before’, I’m not interested.’

The statement above is slightly exaggerated but its basic message is not wrong. Why has it come about? Well, the shortcoming of sales persons taking up considerable amount of time and then selling products and/or services that did not fulfil the client’s requirements is the major issue.

We now have the buyer or the procurement manager that controls the situation so that decision maker’s time is not wasted. But, is the decision maker’s objectives the same as the buyer’s objectives. They can be out of sync with the buyer trying to minimise expenditure and the decision maker trying to get a product that works for the company. The best solution is when it is relatively low cost and fulfils the needs of those that need it. Can we guarantee that latter will be paid lip service in place of the economy drive?

The meeting ended on how do you get to the decision maker in this day and age?

Answers on a postcard please!

To be continued…………….

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