What Buyers Discovered During the Pandemic

The epidemic has prompted us to reassess our job and how we interact with our clients as merchants. Customers have cancelled "high priority/committed projects" and shifted cash to more critical "ad hoc" initiatives. This presents both opportunities and risks.

BTW, this isn't a brand-new idea; Hank Barnes has been doing extensive study for years. Perhaps the epidemic has hastened this or brought it to the forefront of people's minds.

"Virtual selling" is one of the most significant changes we've done. We needed to discover a new way to engage with consumers since we couldn't travel or meet face to face. There have been some intriguing outcomes as a consequence of this.

We've discovered that cutting less on travel allows us to spend more time "meeting" with consumers. We can improve our efficiency, if not our productivity.

As leaders, we've seen the difficulties that our employees encounter in feeling connected and engaged. Because people aren't coming into the office, much of the informal dialogue that is essential to how businesses operate isn't taking place.

So, whether via more regular check-ins/one-on-ones, virtual cocktail parties, or other means, we had to come up with new methods to keep our workers connected and interested.

Many of these changes were undoubtedly coming anyhow, but the epidemic has expedited them. Some were made just for the sake of surviving.

As time goes on, we'll go back to some of the things we did before the epidemic, abandoning some of the things we had to do because of circumstances. We'll keep working on some of the new initiatives–a there's lot of buzz about the potential of combining F2F and virtual. And other companies have made significant discoveries that have changed the way they market.

The epidemic and the gradual easing of its limitations may have sparked a new round of debates about the future of selling. There is a greater focus on what we can do differently, how we can sell differently, and maybe even more successfully.

However, during all of these chats, I've had a really uneasy feeling.

Where is the customer (apart from the fact that they are the recipients of these new products we are forcing upon them)? What has the consumer learnt and how has their purchasing behavior altered as a result of the pandemic?

What we overlook is that the consumer was also compelled to adjust as a result of the epidemic. They, like sales, had to modify the way they worked.

As many of their markets changed, companies were compelled to modify priorities and work techniques, as they faced dramatic fluctuations in demand, supply chain issues, and challenges to their own capacity to operate effectively and efficiently. New issues occurred, some of which were specific to the pandemic and others which had always existed but were now of greater concern.

Consumers had to figure out new methods to purchase just as merchants had to find out new ways to sell and engage customers.

"Isn't that just the inverse of what we're doing?" many merchants would say. “The future of purchasing is virtual!” one may infer.

That, I believe, is due to the fact that much of the marketing paradigm is based on “meetings.” We've always thought of things in terms of a straight seller-to-buyer contact. Whether it's face-to-face, over the phone, on social media, or online, our paradigm has always revolved on the "meeting."

Buyers, on the other hand, approach their purchasing dilemma differently than vendors do. The "meeting" isn't the key to resolving their purchasing dilemma. They learn from a variety of sources, both online and offline, as well as from coworkers and others.

The "meeting" may not be as important in their learning/buying process as it once was.

The use and misuse of technology to engage prospects and consumers has piqued the interest of sellers and marketers. However, dealers and marketers aren't the only ones who have discovered how to use technology.

Buyers are learning how to use technology, such as AI and machine learning, to help them search, filter, and learn more efficiently.

But what's fascinating is that purchasing hasn't become any easier; in fact, there's a lot of evidence indicating it's gotten harder. It's never been simple to manage a complicated purchasing process. Buyers don't know how to purchase, and they're having trouble coordinating the ever-expanding purchasing team.

They have a hard time dealing with shifting objectives and directions. They are battling the ever-increasing complexity and disruption in their industries.

However, their tools are becoming more difficult to use, and the new digital purchasing experience adds to the complexity. Where they may have battled in the past to get the information they want, they now face a plethora of high-quality information. They can't seem to figure out what's most important in their position.

They are torn between wanting to do the right thing and not knowing whether they are.

Too frequently, after making a choice, they experience regret, less about whether they chose the appropriate vendor, and more about whether they did the right thing—for themselves and the business.

As a result, purchasing has altered dramatically as a result of the epidemic.

We don't hear buyers talking about virtual meetings as a huge shift, despite the fact that there has been a big change in selling.

The distance between how purchasers buy and how we sell seems to be widening, not closing.

Thanks to Dave Brock at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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