Way back in 1960, Jerome McCarthy came up with the 4 P’s of marketing. You all know them from your marketing class at college:
Well, how times have changed. With the rise of the Internet and networked global communication, the buyer has become an information king or queen. Ogilvy, the global advertising firm, has morphed the 4 P’s into the 4 E’s because of these changes that technology has brought to customers in the global marketplace.
These changes are most evident in the realm of consumer markets. As I reflected on this, I began to visualize how this shift to the 4 E’s is affecting the B2B sales arena. Let’s investigate.
In B2B sales, the customer journey or “experience” begins with your website. Smart B2B buyers scope out your website and those of your competitors to scour for information on how to get the best solution for their business problem or need. This means that the customer you meet is often better informed about you and your competitors than you are. He or she is “experienced” and therefore much more demanding and discerning on the solution for their business issues.
Their experience moves to interaction with a salesperson, a call center, or an interactive website to explore alternatives for purchase. If the customer interaction involves your sales or call center people, this experience is even more critical to the success of the sale. Better-educated customers are demanding experiences with sales people that do not waste time, are professional, and build trust in your solution. Sales people are the customer “experience makers or breakers” even before the sale is made. Evidently sales people must be even more prepared in solution, market and competitive information before sales interactions, extremely fluent in selling skills and emotional intelligence to build rapport and trust with customers to move them to buy.
I first grasped the concept of “Everyplace” when I heard “The Growth Guy” Verne Harnish speak in Mumbai earlier this year. He said “The internet has made every product a commodity.” How I interpreted his statement was the customers are no longer insulated by country or ethnic boundaries. The Internet has made the market for all products available in “Everyplace.” My customers, whether in Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur can scour for my services or products from “Everyplace” on the planet. The effect on my B2B business is profound as all customers understand and can demand ‘world class solutions, interactions and service’ no matter what country they are in. For me, this means my sales and service people, my support processes and business solutions must exceed world-class standards in every case and “everyplace.”
Price used to be in exchange for a product. As customers become more educated and demanding, price is an exchange for value that includes the experience. In B2B selling, the clients are expecting a total solution of pre and post service, high quality features, and proactive relationship in exchange for their own involvement, actions, and commitment to use your product or solution. You might say that clients are exchanging their own commitment to use your organization and products in exchange for value that you provide through the total experience of your solution.
I believe the salesperson is the key differentiator in the even more crowded marketplace of high quality “commodity” solutions. This means that your B2B sales people must be “evangelical” in their commitment and drive to build relationships with customers to “experience” the full quality of your product and solutions. Let the competition hire the lukewarm sales persons. Your firm needs to attract and retain those sales people who are on fire for your organization and the solutions it provides.
In today’s world of decreased employee loyalty, one may find this as a difficult hurdle. The key here is to ensure your sales managers are “on fire” themselves to have the evangelical charisma to attract those potential sales people that believe in your solutions. Great salespeople are attracted to sales managers who believe in creating winners of winning products and solutions. The manager’s evangelism of nurturing winners inspires the salesperson to skillfully influence the customer to commit to “exchange” their investment for the positive “experience” of your product or solution so your clients will be your brand ambassadors “everywhere” in this globally connected world.
If you wish to read more about Ogilvy’s insights and research on the 4 E’s, visit their website and determine how you can lead your sales team into the world of the 4E’s.