Entrepreneur Chris Castillo tells a story: While waiting for a physiotherapist’s appointment for foot pain recently, he pulled out his phone and started doing his own research. After the therapist instructed him on his exercises, Castillo asked about the ones he’d read on his phone. The physiotherapist agreed he should do those too.
It’s a parable for the fast-changing reality of sales. Smartphone-toting shoppers are educated like never before and far less dependent on a sales rep to tell them what they need. One recent study suggested buyers have already made 57% of a purchase decision before they even contact a supplier.
“We’re used to a certain way of selling that’s more traditional, top-down, ‘I’m more educated than you are.’ But now it’s totally changed,” says Castillo. Small businesses need to alter their mindsets to become more like coaches or consultants, helping buyers understand the vast array of information before them.
Digital marketing, such as search advertising and social media, are also invaluable, Castillo says. After personal referrals, it’s become his second-best source of new customers for his auto shop.
But don’t ditch the sales reps just yet. Entrepreneur and consultant Tim Rudkins says while buyers do a lot of research online, they’re also busy and inundated with information. “They often buy from someone who happens to be knocking on their door that day,” Rudkins says. “Sales reps who stay in contact tend to get more sales. But reps have to do more for the buyer—including giving more information and help than before.”
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