This is an unusual post from me as it relates specifically to a personal B2C experience, but one so good I had to share…and as you’ll see, when done well, delivering customer value is immune to B2B and B2C boundaries.
The story starts in December last year when, being the well organised guy that I am, I was shopping for a Christmas present for my wife on December 22nd (well at least it wasn’t Christmas Eve!). Knowing pretty much what I wanted I wasn’t expecting a problem, but I was in for a surprise; in fact a couple.
I was looking for a small, high-quality digital camera with zoom and a view-finder. My wife wanted something better than a phone camera but didn’t want to be dragging around her SLR digital when on holidays. I’d done the research and had a clear idea of what I wanted. However, while the internet provided me with good knowledge of what I should be buying, allowing only 2 days to complete the buy, wrap and place under the tree ruled out an online purchase (Note to self – shop earlier). So off the the local retailer with my short-list of options and a good idea of what I’d have to pay.
Here’s where the ‘good selling’ started, but not as you might think. The shop assistant who approached me listened to the research I had done and understood the feature that I valued most was the view-finder. Trying to photograph in sunlight or using a long-lens, even on small cameras, I find a real challenge. While the shop assistant could have offered me any number of great quality options, all lacked this feature. She agreed with my reasoning, apologised that she was unable to help and even suggested some competitor stores that might have stock. I left not thinking that she had lost a sale, but admiring how she had questioned me to understand what features I valued and why. Knowing if she tried to push me in another direction I’d be disappointed (well my wife would be and of course, we all know what they say about a happy wife and life), she backed-out of the sale but still offered her assistance.
The next part of this story (sale) occurred a few weeks back. My son had just started Uni and found his old MacBook Pro was quite a bulky to be carried from class-to-class and was in need of an update. Based on his own research (asking his mates what they had and looking for what was ‘cool’) he’d decided on a Surface Pro. So based on my Christmas experience, off we trotted to the same retailer and straight up to the Microsoft display. Within a couple of minutes we were approached by a young salesperson who made a great first impression by NOT asking “can I help you”. Instead, his opening went something like this: “The Surface Pro is a great machine, but it is one of the more expensive options for portable computing. Can I ask what you are looking to use it for?” When we explained it was for Uni, and one of the features my son liked was it’s ‘dual purpose’ functionality (laptop that converts to a tablet), he gave us the reasons we should, perhaps, consider other options. He explained that for the ‘high-touch’ use it would receive, the detachable screen was vulnerable and suggested that a more conventional laptop with ‘reversible’ touch-screen would be worth considering. He then showed us a couple of options, including the ‘up-sell’ to the more powerful siblings, and clearly explained (without the technical jargon) why he had recommended these. His explanation was based on what he had learned about our requirement. He then left us to ponder. My son and I agreed the Surface Pro was cool, but probably not the most appropriate option for his needs. We looked at the ‘lower-end’ options the salesman had presented, but being the great salesman that I am, I convinced myself the more powerful sibling would be the way to go – yes, I was up-selling myself. We reconnected with the salesperson and told him of our (my) decision. To my surprise, he didn’t jump at the opportunity to grab my credit card and complete the order. He again went over the features of each of the 2 machines and suggested that if he was spending his money for the same need, he’d go with the cheaper option.
People are always going to go shopping. A lot of our effort is just: ‘How do we make the retail experience a great one?’ Phillip Green, British businessman and retail guru.
By this stage the guy had my trust and respect so we went with his advice. But of course the on-sell would have to come…well it would wouldn’t it? And yes it did. Of course the extended warranty was offered and promptly rejected. He countered with all the reasons having a full replacement warranty would be a benefit and why he wouldn’t consider offering an extended warranty based on ‘return and repair’. And of course, a new computer needs a cool carry-bag. Our friendly salesperson explained a back-pack style would be most suitable for campus life. But wait; there are no 14” bags in stock. “No problem” I say, “15” will do fine” only to be shot down by our now ‘trusted advisor’ who says he’d prefer not to sell us one as the computer would not be as well protected with the extra space to move. But after a quick check of inventory he advised he could “get one from another store and have it available in 24 hours if that was not too inconvenient”.
Now, as I hand over my credit card, I am wondering what has just happened. We went into this store ready to part with significant dollars to buy a Surface Pro, only to be guided to spend half as much by the store’s own salesperson.
So let’s look at what really did happen in this sales process and how it applies to B2B selling.
Firstly, for both the camera and PC, I was well into my buyer’s journey (or so I thought) through the research I had done online and with friends. This is, of course typical in today’s buyer for both B2C and B2B sales. I did my EXPLORATION..
Secondly, back in December, the salesgirl went to the trouble to understand what I valued and did not try to convince me otherwise. She had a thorough knowledge of the products she was able to offer and those that she was not. She understood her products (available and not), what was available in the market and the trends. She didn’t close a sale, and while she was probably not aware of it, nor was I at the time, she did start a relationship.
So with this good experience behind me, it’s not surprising I ventured to the same store when looking for a laptop, nor should I have been surprised at the approach of the salesperson. There was no pushing of his products, nor the usual boring rote pitch of the features of the top-end models. Instead, he showed an interest in me, my son and our needs. He went into DISCOVERY mode – we were approached, qualified and our needs confirmed.
With a clear understanding of our needs and what we VALUED, we were then presented with a SOLUTION, and options. We were then given the opportunity to ANALYSE what had been presented.
Our ‘trusted advisor’ then PROVIDED ANSWERS and CONFIRMED he had addressed all of our concerns – we reached AGREEMENT to purchase, he did not close the sale.
So, while a B2C engagement, the professionalism demonstrated by these salespeople and the process they followed mirrors what is required to be successful in a B2B environment.
While there are many definitions of the Buyer’s Journey and accompanying Sales Cycle, this experience demonstrates that the basics of putting the customer first, understanding and delivering value and disengaging from a sale when unable to deliver that value to the customer will pay dividends in the long term and ensure, if you are a store like JB Hi Fi, you’ll get the kudos deserved.