Can you identify this vehicle? It’s a 1995 Ford Tempo and it was the first new car I ever bought. It was also one of my worse purchases since the car turned out to be a lemon. Reflecting back on that experience over 20 years ago, it’s amazing to think how different the car buying process was compared to now. Back then, new car buyers spent their evenings and weekends visiting multiple dealerships, taking test drives and peppering the sales reps with questions. The sales rep played a big role in educating the buyer and relatively little vehicle information was available outside of the dealership. Whether you liked the sales rep or felt they were sleazy, you still interacted with them quite a bit throughout the buying process.
Fast forward 20 years to today and think about buying a new vehicle. You likely start with online searches related to a few vehicles you have in mind. You can easily get exact details on every vehicle including pricing, options and local inventory. By the time you actually walk into a dealership, you know exactly what you want and the interaction with the sales rep is reserved for any complex topics such as negotiating, financing and service packages.
The automobile industry has been forced to adapt to the way people leverage available technology. Dealerships now focus on getting themselves seen early in the buyer’s journey in the places we frequently visit online and social media. They have slimmer margins but make up for it with higher transaction volumes, incentives and cross-selling offers. The sales rep no longer needs to be an expert in every feature and function of the vehicle. Nor do they need to educate the buyer from the start since the buyer already shows up with a clear picture of what they want to purchase.
Modern Sales and Marketing
The change in the car buying process is similar to the way the enterprise software sales industry has evolved in recent years. According to Sirius Decisions, a thought leader that benchmarks sales and marketing best practices, approximately 2/3rds of the B2B buying cycle is done before sales teams are significantly engaged. Added research from TeleSmart Communications projects that 85% of buyer-seller interaction will happen online through social media and video by 2020. Regardless of the statistic, we can all agree we live in a very different world compared to just a few years ago and it will certainly continue to change.
So is the role of the Sales Rep diminished or even dead?
Not at all! It means prospects are better informed so every interaction with a sales rep needs to be high value. The best sales reps quickly understand the buyer’s business goals and desired outcome. Communication with prospective buyers should focus on closing any gaps and demonstrating value and differentiation. Buyers have short attention spans and your competitor is just a click away. A deal can be closed when the buyer is comfortable they are getting what they want and it often comes down to much more than just price. A wise salesperson once told me: “Price may get you the first (and only) deal, but service and support keep them coming back for more.” If you are interested in hearing more about Qlik’s approach to maximizing sales performance, visit us at www.qlik.com/salessolutions. And if you are thinking about buying a used Ford Tempo, stay away!
Photo credit: tobo / Foter / CC BY-SA