You’re probably no stranger to talk about how the internet has changed buying and selling. You’ve heard – and of course seen with your own eyes – how the relationships between consumers and sellers have changed, and how the expectations both bring to the table are fundamentally different in today’s social media-driven, constantly-wired world.
New terms – “connected selling” and “connected buying” – have begun to emerge to describe the relationships and responsibilities native to this new sales landscape. And they seem to offer a good start to describing the situation at hand, but they may leave you with questions.
So, you may ask, who is the connected buyer? Who is the connected seller? What do they have in common, what’s the difference, and what does connectivity mean for people on any side of a partner sales relationships?
Let’s dig into the nitty gritty about connected buying and selling:
What is Connected Buying?
No matter what you do in the channel as a professional, you’re also a consumer. And as a consumer looking to buy anything these days – be it a car, a piece of furniture, a rare book or even a new shirt or dress – you’ve probably already been a connected buyer. It’s rare in this day and age that someone walks into a retailer or goes onto a website to make a major purchase with absolutely no information about what they’re buying. Customers, as connected buyers, research and receive insights through any number of different connected channels – such as:
Asking around on social media about the best product to purchase, or experience purchasing from a particular vendor;
Getting information about products from video ad campaigns or video reviews, both on computers and on mobile devices;
Reading online reviews to determine if something is worth buying or has any flaws;
Doing comparison shopping by looking at a variety of different websites;
Seeing what sort of loyalty or rewards programs a given retailer has that may give them an extra incentive to buy than at another outlet.
And that’s not just true for individual consumers. Businesses and organizations go through the same steps. Often this is done as a part of an organized information gathering process, but it doesn’t even need to be so formal. Sometimes it’s just a matter of individuals within a company poking around and bringing the information they find with them to a meeting.
Either way, connectedness is built into the way people, and businesses, buy.
What is Connected Selling?
Customers have naturally started to use all of the information channels and tools at their disposal to get the products and the purchasing experience they want. Sales, on the other hand, is still catching up.
Connected selling is an emerging model for cultivating and maintaining sales relationships as well as selling products and services. In connected selling, partners and individual salespeople:
Use all of the information about consumers out there in the online world at their disposal – including social media – to inform and improve their prospecting, selling and relationship management;
Use advanced analytics on the data accumulated to paint a full picture of a customer and their needs and;
Use technology, including mobile solutions, to facilitate smooth communications both between partners and clients, and internally between salespeople, teams and management.
Now that you understand the nuts and bolts of connectedness, that may leave you with one question…
Why Get Connected?
It used to be enough for salespeople to cold call. But in today’s busy, crowded business landscape, random phone calls don’t get answered and unsolicited emails get deleted. It used to be enough to give a good elevator speech on a solution and get into a customer’s good graces. But now that customer can do a tremendous amount of research to get past a salesperson’s pitch and find the inside scoop on the quality of the solution, and the quality of other options. It used to be enough to just meet with a client and follow up a week later. But now, maintaining appropriately close contact is a necessity. It used to be enough to bring on as many partners as possible and see which ones would succeed and which ones would fail. But now, having a partner misrepresent your brand or give rise to just one negative experience with your name attached can lead to irreparable reputation damage, nationwide or even globally.
These are only a few of the reasons why connected selling is important.
The world has changed. In order to keep up with the demands of the connected buyer, who can increasingly get what they want, when they want it, the connected seller needs to leverage all of the tools available to do the job.