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Identifying customer buying signals when the going gets tough.

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As manufacturing, distribution and wholesaling business seek to mitigate the ongoing effects of the pandemic by prioritizing cashflow, identifying precious customer selling opportunities is more important than ever - particularly for smaller businesses who might only have a handful of customers specifying repeat items. But do you really know what motivates your customer to buy in challenging times? What are the key signals to look out for and what tools can make the process easier?

In periods of muted demand, where company budgets are constrained across the board, striving for better sales can seem like a mammoth task. Yet, alongside many obvious challenges, uncertain times can also present a real opportunity for businesses to win the loyalty of more customers, forge stronger relations with existing clients, increase productivity and strengthen market position.

The key indicators

The good news is that the typical signals that indicate customers are ready to buy in a crisis are much the same as in more standard times, albeit these ‘tells’ merit more attention and scrutiny. In periods when more sellers are chasing reduced demand, there can be many competing considerations in play for decision-makers.

What’s more, these signals can be apparent during both physical and digital encounters between a company and prospective clients – whether it’s a Zoom call, face-to-face meeting website visit or social media engagement.

These signals can be ‘harder’ indicators such as a prospect signing up for a free product trial, asking for further detail on key product specifics like price or terms and conditions or having taken the time to fill out a form on your website.  

There are also softer, but no less telling, indicators that suggest a prospect is preparing to buy, such as engaging with your brand on social media, showing an interest in one specific product in isolation or taking the time to investigate your customer case studies.

Either way, sales professionals will need to demonstrate strong attention to detail in spotting these signs and must have the capability to follow them up appropriately and in a timely fashion, if they are to nurture leads for the long term and deliver real bottom-line impact.

A custom approach

Being close to customers to understand what makes them tick and intuitively recognize these indicators is always important, but absolutely crucial when sales are harder fought. As such, it has been no surprise to see so many of our customers doubling down their efforts to ringfence spend from their existing customers since the crisis began.

That said, tougher trading conditions also typically present opportunities for businesses to look beyond their core markets and we have seen a number of operators pivot to diversify into offering high-demand items such as janitorial and sanitation products and making significant gains in the process.

Of course, taking advantage of opportunities to leverage existing spend with customers in tough times isn’t easy but still possible, particularly when it comes to cross and up selling. But this typically relies on sellers having a comprehensive overview of longer-term customer buying patterns, something that not all sales professionals have access to or may simply ‘carry’ in their heads. This is where technology solutions come into their own.

The tech tools of the trade

Technology can play a significant role in helping businesses identify and take advantage of more opportunities to sell, particularly by helping them make sense of the vast amounts of data they hold on customer buying patterns. Far too many businesses still hold this data in impenetrable spreadsheets, making interpretation of historic trends and patterns that could inform future buying possibilities practically impossible, when they could be taking advantage of sales enablement technology that puts this detail in their hands, wherever they are.

The most forward-thinking sales teams understand there are fine margins involved in identifying and closing new sales opportunities -having robust data to underpin negotiations at the right time can make the difference between closing a sale and missing out. This approach has served many operators well during the Covid crisis, giving them a notable competitive advantage over more sluggish competitors.

Future-proofed sales

The months ahead will undoubtedly be challenging for many sales teams across industry, with opportunities to cross and up-sell to customers at a real premium but it will be a bumpy ride. However, those sales teams that go the extra mile to understand what prompts their customers to buy and can successfully transition towards a more data-driven sales strategy will be best placed to keep order books in good shape for when more favorable economic conditions return.

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