"Carr-Michael quickly analysed our business, and showed us how to make fast and effective improvements. In this economic downturn, Carr-Michael processes have been a great help."

Owners and directors: Professional Services company

Customers that Know More than You do...about your own products


It’s happening more and more. It’s the elephant in the room and the cold shiver up the spines of your sales people. The customer knows more than you do. The customer knows not only more about your products she knows more about your competitors’ products. OMG! Customers with 666 tattooed on the back of their necks!
Such descriptions reflect old school selling with the need to control the buying process at the expense of the customer. Technology and particularly the recent explosion in microblogs and activist websites have armed customers with huge amounts of information – not all of it accurate or balanced. Customers particularly in a recession take more time to research the market and compare products, these sites significantly increase their knowledge.
It goes beyond simple comparison sites. When buying cars now, many customers only walk into dealerships when they know all the details what they want and why it is better than the competition. Salesmen not only have to know their own product ranges in detail they also have to know the competitors’ ranges as well.
Some say this has always been the case. But it is not (quite) so. Previously the source of information on products was primarily from the manufacturer or retailer. Then it progressed to third party magazines offering “impartial” editorial comments. But now it has progressed to microblogs and websites of people who actually own and use the products every day. Real-world experience from real people like us.
But blogs can be full of both useful information and inaccurate, emotion and even malevolent comments. The problem with blogs is that the information is not necessarily verified. It does not have to be balanced. It can be the personal views of the writer. However because blogs are on the web some people think they must be true. So sales people now have to combat inaccurate information portrayed as “truth” by customers who read “stuff” on the web.
So what can we do about it?
This answer is not fool proof but will help minimise the issue. Companies need to understand how their products are portrayed in all media not just the ones that they control. They need to regularly and methodically check and understand what is being said in trade and public journals, industry bodies, competitors sites, distributor sites and customer forums as well as microblogs and customer websites. Understanding what is being said and the level of influence each has will help you develop and refine your messages and sales activities.
The key point is simple. Do your sales and marketing processes and actions take account of new media? Do they reflect how your customers are buying now and will buy in the future and do they drive long term positive customer experiences? If your customers are bound to be better informed than you then you need to change your “selling” and marketing processes. You need to avoid confrontation and retain a powerful advisory approach to build trust and match specific products (or services) to customer needs.