David Bickerstaff 02 September 2016 3 min read

Rackham was right

Way back in last century... well not way back but towards the end of the 80’s, Neil Rackham wrote a seminal book ‘Making Major Sales’ which was based on his research from over 10,000 sales engagements.

Rackham’s research revealed that whilst organisations had focussed heavily on their sales processes and had mapped and enforced them across their sales team, customers were wired differently and focussed on their buying processes.

Rackham’s findings make absolute sense. Just humour me for a little longer before I bring this piece back to the now.
So Rackham found that customers go through 4 stages in their buying lifecycle;

  • Recognition of needs – a company have a need for something and make a decision to start the buying process
  • Evaluation of options – a company starts researching what products and/or services potential meet their needs
  • Resolution of concerns – a company resolves any concerns about the product and/or services and the supplier
  • Implementation – a company decides on the supplier and product and/or services and commences

Let’s now move the clock forward 30 years to today and focus on the first 3 stages.

Current reality, the new normal or however you call it puts us in a world where our customers and prospects are inundated by the noise of unrequested offers by person, phone, eMAIL and social media.

In my article on ‘personalisation’ a few months ago I mentioned some findings from Forrester on customers’ buying behaviour in particular that a high percentage of buyers research online before actually contacting you. Over the last months I have been testing these findings with companies that I am speaking to and guess what – without exception everyone is in agreement!

Every manager, buyer or exec that I speak to gets hundreds of eMAIL offers per week – but they don’t read them. They get multiple cold calls fielded by their reception or they get deleted from their voicemail.

Unfortunately, the proverbial ‘baby is getting thrown out with the bath water’ – your products and services are just not being seen or considered.

So you have great products and services. You know your target market would find value in your offering but it is near on impossible to get in the door. So what do you do?

Our advice, and by the way there is no right answer, is to play the ‘long game’. What we do know is that buyers are searching online whether that be in a search engine or directly on your website. If Rackham is right (and I believe he is), then your buyer has recognised a need and is now evaluating their options.

So to help them evaluate your products and services provide the buyer a personalised online experience offering products, campaigns and messages based upon their previous buying habits or if they are a new prospect give them superior search capability and great content.

The key point to remember is that buyers are doing their research... they are in discovery mode and your ability to guide them as they evaluate your product and services will enable them to evaluate their options.

With a focus on personalisation and superior search, you have a chance of buyers seriously considering your offer and engaging. If not you run the immediate risk of not getting a sale but much, much worse than that of losing a customer or prospect from a lifetime of sales.

Of course providing a personalised experience and great search and content doesn’t come easy. You will need to look at your customers and buyers in detail and understand their industries and personas. And keep experimenting and refining your content. This is not going to be a once off event. This strategy necessitates you and your team play the ‘long game’ and not expect immediate or miraculous results.

Over the next years, customers and prospects are going to be continually targeted through all outbound channels. This challenge is not going to dissipate! To be part of the game, or at least to stay in the game, the time to invest in personalisation and content and leverage your content management system is now.

When I ask buyers “What they are looking for?” and ”Who do they evaluate?” it is the companies that give them the information they want, when they want it, and it has to be self served. The next thing they look for is doing business with people they can trust and feel confident, can deliver on promises, and gives good customer service. In Rackham’s model this is called the ‘Resolution of Concerns’. Maybe that’s a topic for another blog…