Do you own a South Florida business that’s finding it challenging to get new clients?
Have you noticed changes in recent years with how much harder it is to get to the kinds of prospects you were able to reach in the past?
In this podcast episode, you’ll get actionable strategies that your South Florida-based business can take -- and must take -- to get to the modern buyer that’s so key to securing your company’s continued growth.
Reaching the Modern Buyer from Your South Florida Business
Welcome back to the South Florida CEO Podcast, where leaders of aggressive growth companies in Southeast Florida learn how to stand out from the crowd, get found earlier, generate more high-quality leads, achieve trusted advisor status, close sales faster with stronger profit margins, and grow their revenue.
I’m your host Joshua Feinberg, Chief Thought Leader of SP Home Run.
And today we’re going to dive into how South Florida businesses are getting to the modern buyer.
What exactly is the modern buyer? And why is the modern buyer so different than someone that would’ve purchased your products and services a mere five or ten years ago?
A lot has changed. So much so that we recently hosted some breakfast seminars called “Sales Has Changed. Is Your Team Living in the Past?” Why did we do this?
Understand the Four Factors Driving These Changes
The way people research and make purchase decisions has changed a lot. I’d go so far as to say it’s changed drastically. Why? There are four factors at play: Mobile devices (The biggest factor and the most relatable). Think about how big a part of your personal life and professional life your smartphone is -- whether it’s a Google Android smartphone or an iPhone with iOS.
Think about the first thing you do when you get up in the morning. Think about the last thing you do when you go to bed at night. Think about going a few days with your smartphone locked up in a desk drawer where you can’t touch it.
It used to be up until a few years ago that certain vacations were particularly conducive to that. It wasn’t until pretty recently that there was WiFi available on commercial flights. Now it’s becoming a lot more affordable, a lot more standard. That zone of unplugging has completely gone away. Even vacations on a cruise ship: now all the major cruise lines have WiFi available for a reasonable price that’s not much more expensive than its price at a luxury hotel. Mobile devices and their utilization have gone mainstream.
Cloud computing. At the same time, cloud computing adoption has risen like crazy. Think about how many applications that you use in the cloud, somewhere over the Internet, that would’ve traditionally run on a server or servers in your company’s office as recently as ten years ago.
Search engines. In addition to mobile devices and the rise of cloud computing, search engines are mainstream now. Go back 15 or 20 years, and it was relatively unusual to find someone that was searching on Google or Yahoo! -- looking things up on search engines. Now everyone is doing this all the time. You don’t have to be in front of a desktop computer or a laptop. You can be standing in line at the movie theater or the grocery store. And you don’t even have to type it (the search) anymore. You just hit the button and say “OK Google” or ask Siri or Cortana to give you the answers. We’re all searching like crazy.
Social media. And we’re all using social media. So couple the rise of mobile devices, cloud computing, search engines, and social media. We’ve completely changed the way that people research and make purchase decisions.
Your prospects. Your clients. Regardless of whether we’re talking about influencers or decision makers. They’re just doing tons of research online before they’re ready to talk with you. And they’re doing so much research that, in many cases, 70% or more of their decision is already made up before you’re ever looped into that conversation. Before you even know that they’re looking for a product or service like yours.
In some business models and industries, it’s a little less than 70%. In some cases, it’s even more than 70%. But it is a huge number. And they are very far along in their purchase process, their decision-making process, before you ever get a chance to get a word in edgewise.
And this is a really big challenge. But it’s also a great opportunity for forward-thinking companies. Is your company keeping up and staying competitive? Or is it living in the past -- clinging to the same playbook that it used, all the way back in the early 2000’s when the Internet, web browsing, and email were just starting to get going.
During those breakfast seminars, we talked about
- Building and maintaining trusted advisor relationships with prospects and clients
- Differentiating from the competition and being the premier provider in your industry, so you stand out from the crowd
- How critical it is to have strong processes to make sure that your team is productive, so you can get more consistent results
- Identifying and filling in gaps that are standing in your way
- Attracting and closing more of the right prospects
This brings us back full circle to the theme of today’s podcast episode: how do we get to the modern buyer.
And specifically: how can businesses in Southeast Florida get to their modern buyers -- get to the influencers and the decision makers that they’re trying to reach.
Get to the Right Influencers and Decision Makers
It doesn’t matter whether your company is business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), or business to government (B2G), if you’re selling to human beings, human beings have changed how they look at the available options.
When we were putting together these breakfast seminars, besides asking a couple of questions like first name, last name, company name, and email address on the landing page, we asked every single person: “What is your biggest sales and marketing challenge?” And we didn’t give them a drop-down list, radio button, or checkbox. We asked them to type in their own words.
Asking people in their own words is so critical because so many times when we’re trying to figure out what’s going on inside the minds of our prospects and our clients, we make assumptions. And you know what they say when you assume things?
So we don’t want to make assumptions. We want to get their thoughts in their own words. So what we got, in their own words, about why they wanted to come to the breakfast seminar “Sales Has Changed. If Your Team Living in the Past?” -- we heard things like:
- They were struggling with acquiring new clients.
- They were frustrated with bureaucracy.
- They had trouble closing sales.
- They had trouble finding leads.
- They struggled to get in front of more prospects and get new clients.
- They had challenges around getting attention as a small company.
- They had trouble getting people to see their value.
- They struggled with lead generation, lead retention, migration, new business development, and staying top of mind after the initial meeting.
One of the things that we did as well: we took all of the responses and put them in word cloud software, so we could see what the predominant words were that stood out. And this is a great way, when you’re dealing with qualitative data, to get your mind around some of the big trends.
What words really jumped off the page?
- New (the biggest word)
- Business (the second biggest word)
This all makes sense around the same central theme. How can companies in Southeast Florida get to this modern buyer, regardless of where their potential clients are located? Maybe they’re local. Maybe they’re regional. Maybe they’re national. Maybe they’re international because you sell all over the world.
Review How We Got Here
To really answer this question, I think it’s important to take a trip down memory lane to see where we’ve come from.
If you think about before the web, before the rise of mobile devices, search engines, social media, and cloud computing all going mainstream, buyers were relatively uninformed. They didn’t know it at the time, but there was a relatively finite number of ways that they got their information.
Maybe they went to a bookstore and looked at a buyer’s guide. Maybe they went to the library and looked at some back issues of newspapers or magazines. Maybe they picked up a printed telephone book and made a bunch of phone calls. Maybe at a networking event or association event and asked questions of a peer or colleagues.
Buyers were relatively uninformed. They didn’t realize it at the time, but compared to the firehose of information that we have at our disposal today, it was very primitive.
Back around this time, if you talked to someone that’s been a sales director for decades, the buyer’s journey -- the sales process -- was relatively linear. There was a point 1, point 2, point 3. Or A, B, C or whatever it was. Deal stages.
Buyers tended to follow a relatively predictable pattern that you could train your sales team around.
And back then, the sales playbook was largely based on interruption. If you needed to generate more opportunities, if you needed to do more prospecting, you just made more phone calls -- cold calls. And you did more outbound advertising: billboards, print advertising in magazines and newspapers, advertising on TV and radio, and renting targeted direct mail lists.
It was about interrupting and getting attention. And all of this was fairly effective for a very long period of time. Around the 1950s and 1960s all the way into the early 2000s. Well into the late 2000s -- until search engines, social media, and mobile computing got into the mainstream.
Adapt to a World Where Everyone’s an Expert
Today’s buyer -- the modern buyer -- is very different. They’re not relatively uninformed. They’re very well informed.
And a question that we have about the most mundane detail, in our personal or professional lives, can be answered within mere seconds and we don’t even have to type it anymore.
If you’re wondering, gee “Who are the actors in The Breakfast Club movie?” Or "who was the 37th president of the United States"? Or "what was the inflation rate in 1963"? Or "what are the top 10 law schools in the U.S."?
All of these questions can each be answered in under 10 seconds just by asking Google or Siri or Cortana or Bing. And again many times we don’t even have to type out the query.
We have a very well informed buyer today compared to how this buyer would’ve done this research as recently as 10 or 15 years ago.
Today’s buyer’s journey, as a result, is much more fluid. Much more random. And many times the buyer’s journey starts with running a search on Google.
All of that interruption -- banner ads, spamming people -- it’s seen its heyday because people got tired of being interrupted. And they’re paying a big premium, in many cases, to avoid those interruptions.
How many people do you know that are paying $10 or $20 per month to not have to listen to radio commercials anymore? How many people do you know that are paying each month to not have to watch TV commercials? How many people are answering their phones each month without looking at caller ID?
We have the do not call registry. And now both iOS and Android now default have a feature built in where it comes up on a screen red and says “Suspected Spam Caller” -- essentially, suspected cold caller.
All of this means that the sales playbook, that’s based on interruption is not very effective anymore. And it’s getting more and more expensive.
Modernize Your Sales Playbook to Reflect Today’s Market Realities Among South Florida Businesses
What do we do with the sales playbook today? It needs to be a lot better defined.
In a lot of cases, it depends on who the person is that we’re selling to. Their role. Their buyer persona and the buyer’s journey. It’s much more complicated. It requires a much more sophisticated mindset for people to get their mind around because the Internet, digital media, social media, search engines, and mobile devices have completely changed humans.
As a result, today, everyone is an expert. Think about something as routine as going for a root canal. Or going for transmission service on your car. Or deciding what summer camp to send your kids to. Think about how you do research today and the kind of information you’re looking for, and how you would’ve done that research as recently as 10 or 15 years ago.
We don’t just trust marketing anymore or even professional reviewers. We look for all kinds of reviewers. Why do you think Amazon is such a popular search engine? Why do you think that retailers are so scared of this idea of “showrooming” where you’re at a traditional retailer. And you’re not only checking the price of what it costs on Amazon. You’re checking to see what other people have said about this particular product.
And that’s been a big change as well. In this era of the modern buyer, it’s no longer about what you say about your brand. It’s what the collective wisdom of the Internet says around your brand. It’s impossible for your own company to control your own brand anymore. All you can hope to do is do the best that you possibly can at attracting the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context. And that’s a really big deal: Getting found by the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context.
That last part -- the context -- is so critical because there is so little attention-span today, with people jumping from website to website, online storefront to online storefront.
So if you don’t have the logistics of a Fortune 500 company, and can’t compete at that scale, and you’re just selling something that’s perceived as a commodity, that’s a very dangerous place to be.
Get More Leverage with Your Buyers
The way we got a lot more leverage in the buyer’s journey is to be seen as a true expert, to be seen as a subject matter expert, to be seen as the best communicators on the planet about what it is that we do.
That’s how we get trusted advisor status. That’s how we earn a seat at the table early on, to be sitting with potential clients and be guiding their decision criteria when they’re way before that 70% point. When they’re just 10% or 20% of the way into the buyer’s journey, and they’re just starting to ask really broad-based questions on search engines and social media.
As they learn a little more about their goals, about their problems, and they start to realize that there’s a name for their challenge, struggle, or goal, then they’ll go back and do another search with the name. And it’s not your company. And it’s not your product.
It’s the category that your products or services reside in. That’s at the middle of the buyer’ journey -- what we sometimes call the consideration stage.
Once they hit the consideration stage and you’re still seen as a trusted advisor or subject matter expert, you’re in a position to steer the criteria for what they see as most important.
If you’re the one that’s guiding them on how they see the world, you’re in a great position.
But if your company is not the one that’s sitting at the table with them early on, and helping them learn about what it is that’s most important in your category of product or service, that puts your company in a very precarious situation. Because then, if you manage to get looped in at the end, somebody else has already taught them what to look for.
And the only thing that might change their mind, to switch over to your company, is the cheapest price.
Avoid the Slippery Slope
When we only win, when we’re the cheapest, that’s a sucky place to be -- a downward spiral, a slippery slope. I could use all of these cliches for places that you don’t want to be with your business.
Suffice it to say, there is always going to be somebody that is willing to do it (sell) a nickel, a dime, or a buck cheaper than your company. The whole goal, with being relevant to the modern buyer, is to get found early enough, so we’re seen as true experts.
True experts that get people out of the commodity mindset, so they can see what the issues truly are. And you can teach them what to look for.
Not only do you accelerate the buyer’s journey, but in many cases, you completely dominate the shortlist. If you do this right, your company is the shortlist. So there aren’t a lot of alternatives for your potential clients to look at besides your company later on.
It’s really about getting found by the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context. Now that everyone has access to this information, at their fingertips -- again, standing in line at the grocery store, standing in line at the movies, sitting on the train or bus commuting into the office, there is a ridiculous amount of information at our fingertips for product research.
Many times a salesperson is no longer needed early on or at all. Think about how many things you purchase today that five or ten years ago where you needed to talk to a person -- and now it’s entirely self-service.
Even if you have a relatively complicated product or service, with an extended decision cycle, it’s entirely possible that your sales team is not required, or even going to get a foot in the door during the first 50%, 60%, or 70% of the buyer’s journey.
Help Your Sales Team Upgrade Their Game
So by the time potential clients show up at your doorstep, they’ve already done tons of research. The last thing in the world that you want to do is have your potential clients know more than your sales team. This forces your sales team to be on their game as well, to be true experts.
Potential clients are not coming to your office or showroom; they’re not scheduling a sales call for the privilege of your sales team reading something to them that’s already on your website.
We need to make sure that we’re realistic about what it takes to be competitive in today’s modern buyer’s journey.
Subject matter expertise is extremely important. Publishing thought leadership that answers the questions that each kind of potential buyers are asking very early on before they even know about your product or service category -- and then the questions that they ask more at the middle of the buyer’s journey -- are to understand your product or service category.
Finally, you want to have information about your products or services as well. Most companies that are digital flunkies with all of this that are asleep at the wheel, the only information that they have available on their websites, on their digital storefronts and in their social media, is just about themselves -- about their products and services, their team and how wonderful they are. And this ignores the fact that your potential clients are going to even want to hear about that until they’ve done all of their early research. Until they are about 70% to 80% of the way done.
So you’re missing an enormous part of being able to widen that sales funnel with people that are doing tons of early-stage research, comparisons in the middle when they’re at the consideration stage.
Talk More About What Matters to Them, Not You
In most cases, if you just have basic product or service information on your website, like most people that are still living in the past, it comes across as very tone-deaf. It’s a big turn off to people. In many cases, it may even be a moot point though because your company will just end up being invisible if you’re not getting found in those early stage searches.
The big takeaway with all of this: if getting found by modern buyers is important to your company in Southeast Florida, it’s very important to recognize that the way people research and make purchase decisions have changed drastically. In many cases, 70% or more of their decision is already made before you’re ever looped into the conversation.
Again, this is a big challenge, but also a great opportunity. The companies that are doing best with this are recognizing that most of your potential clients, most influencers and decision makers -- want that research to be available to them, to do on their own time, whether it’s 2 o’clock in the morning or 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon -- they want to be in control of everything. When they’re ready, they’ll talk to you.
The question is: is your company doing what it needs to do to compete effectively in the marketplace, given where we are today? Or is it snoozing, asleep at the wheel, and living in the past?
Compete More Aggressively to Avoid Being Disrupted
It’s up to you, whether you want to take the bull by the horns, whether you want to be competitive in this space or you want to be in denial and watch all of this pass you by.
We've seen tons of household name retailers and Fortune 500 companies become disrupted during the past five years. It’s happening all over the place. If you want to avoid your company being disrupted, it’s really critical that you have a digital plan of attack for how your company stays relevant in the future.
I’m so glad to have you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast.
If you learned something valuable from this episode, please subscribe to the South Florida CEO Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.
To get notified about upcoming episodes, be sure to visit www.sphomerun.com/ceo
I’m Joshua Feinberg. And we look forward to seeing you back again next time when we’ll continue the conversation about how your company can stand out from the crowd, get found earlier, generate more high-quality leads, achieve trusted advisor status, close sales faster with stronger profit margins, and grow your revenue.