When you think about changing markets, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Just think about your own buying behavior. When is the last time you visited a mall? Do you enjoy paging through catalogs to mail or call in an order? How about spending some time with a car salesperson helping you pick out your next vehicle?
Even at work, your buying behaviors have likely changed. How often do you pick up your phone or check your voicemail? Do you even have voicemail? And your spam filter is likely doing a much better job than it used to at filtering out unsolicited emails.
Now think about what you want to buy. You likely have an ever-growing ecosystem of tools that will need to work together, so you might be interested in a comprehensive solution that connects it all together. Alternately, you might want to find highly specific solutions for individual use cases rather than more generic solutions that were available in the past.
As you start to think of your own business, this can begin to feel overwhelming. How can you stay ahead of your buyers?
Read on for two areas you should stay focused on.
2 Areas to Monitor to Stay Ahead of Changing Markets
Focus on what your customers want to buy.
This might sound simple, but it’s not. Do you know what your customers want to buy?
We all know that over time, people buy different things. From the groceries you eat to the devices you’re using to read this post to the software you use for your job, you’re likely consuming very different things than you were 10 or even 5 years ago.
As trends change, you need to be ahead of the curve. In order to do that, you need to know what your clients will want to buy.
One of the best ways to do that is to understand the problems your customers are dealing with.
Step 1: Document problems you solve.
Work with your team to document 10-20 of the most common problems you currently solve for your clients. Focus on problems that are impactful yet relatable to most of your clients.
Let’s say you sell a software product companies can use to track where items are located in their warehouses. You likely solve problems of people not knowing where to find things, causing them to fill orders or build products too slowly.
Step 2: Identify tangential problems.
After you’ve documented the problems you currently solve, look for tangential problems your customers are dealing with.
In our warehouse example, maybe it’s hard for your customers to track how many of each item they have. This causes them to overstock some goods while running out of others. Is that something you could add as a new feature to your current product or as an optional upgrade?
Two great sources for these tangential problems are your sales and customer service teams. Your sales team likely gets requests for features you can’t fulfill. And your customer service team might get calls from people wondering how to do things your offering can’t (yet) do.
Step 3: Step up a few levels.
As you look at the problems you currently solve and the related problems you might be able to solve, take a step back. Can you bundle multiple related solutions into one comprehensive offering?
In our warehouse example, this might look like a warehouse management solution that tracks inventory count and locations, guides both employees and robots to existing stock, and creates picklists and packing labels for orders.
When you can create these higher-level, sometimes even transformational, offerings, you typically enter a new playing field. You may end up selling to different people at higher levels within client organizations, which can protect you in changing markets. You may even find that you can develop a consulting or transformation offering that develops custom solutions for clients at a higher price point.
Step 4: Hone in on focused solutions.
You might have guessed the next step. After you’ve moved to the side and up, you’ll move down. Focus on specific areas you could develop your offering to provide a more focused solution.
In our warehouse example, you might consider developing a solution that’s optimized for companies storing auto parts. By developing this specialization, you can build an entire sales process and channel focusing on this market.
These focused solutions may be focused on customers in a specific industry or of a specific size or location. Your goal is to figure out what groups of customers might want similar solutions, then create offerings to match.
In changing markets, you might find that these groups grow, shrink, and merge rather quickly, so check in regularly to make sure you’re selling what people want to buy.
And if you discovered that you need to innovate some new solutions, check out our eBook on building a culture of innovation.
Focus on how your customers want to buy.
As you went through the four-step process above, you likely came up with a number of new ideas for what your cusolmers want to buy in today’s changing markets. Now let’s talk about how they want to buy.
In general, one of the biggest changes in buyer behavior through changing markets is the amount of information buyers typically absorb before contacting sales. According to research from HubSpot, just 19% of buyers want to connect with sales in the awareness stage where they’re exploring solutions. Instead, 60% of buyers want to connect in the consideration stage where they’ve already developed a shortlist of potential solutions.
How are you doing at meeting potential customers where and when they want to connect with you?
Here are two key areas to watch to evaluate how well you’re doing in this area.
1. Close rate by lead source
Most organizations monitor their overall close rate, but some aren’t tracking it by lead source. You might have a 20% overall close rate, but your close rate from referrals might be 75% vs. 5% in website-sourced leads.
When you track your close rate by lead source, you can then do two things. First of all, invest more time and effort in the sources with a better close rate! You’ll get more business and make your sales team’s job a lot easier.
At the same time, work to see how you might improve the close rate in other areas, or just stop viewing them as lead sources altogether. Maybe you need to add an email nurturing step to the process before qualifying web-based leads. Or maybe you need to have a junior lead gen team engaging these leads before handing only the hot ones off to your senior sales team.
In rapidly changing markets, make sure to track this and other key data as closely as possible.
2. Buyer journey
If you want to connect with prospects where and when they want to connect with you, you need to make sure you’re aligning with the buyer journey. Ask yourself the following questions.
- Are prospects purchasing existing products or services as-is, or do they need custom solutions?
- What information do prospects want to be able to access about your offering without engaging with you directly?
- How do prospects prefer to communicate? Do they want to call you, speak to a rep in person, visit a store, or chat online? Or maybe they’re prefer no communication at all.
- How can prospects compare your offering to your competitors’?
- Would prospective customers prefer to use a virtual building tool to create their custom solution, or would they rather work with your team to build it together?
- Do prospects want to be able to see a final price or generate a quote automatically, or are they willing to work with your team to develop a quote?
- Do prospects need to see your solution in person or even receive a sample or demo they can use, or can they buy your product without seeing it?
- Would your prospects like to hear big-picture success stories about your other clients or would they prefer data-driven ROI projections?
- How long are customers willing to wait to receive your offering?
None of these questions need to be mutually exclusive – you might find that you need to enable multiple customer paths in your sales process. But if you are trying to make prospects jump through hoops in your sales process, you may realize you’re causing frustration and preventing potential sales, especially as markets and buyer behavior change.
I hope these two focus areas are helpful as you work to adapt to changing markets! If you have any additional questions or suggestions, please share them in the comments.