The pull customerThe marketing and communication reality has changed dramatically since the arrival of new digital and “social” channels. We tend to summarize these changes as the end of mass communication as we knew it, an explosion of new communication channels, the fragmentation of media, the participation of the customer in the marketing and communication process and so on.

One of these changes, that is going on since many years now, is the fact that communication and marketing have become a ‘pull’ instead of a ‘push’ process. Instead of pushing marketing messages and information, as is the case in traditional mass communication, the customer wants to ‘pull’ information. He decides when, how and where he gets the information he needs.

This evolution can be seen everywhere: in the online behavior of the customer, in the ‘pull’ tools he uses, the growing success of self-service but also in the sell/buy.

Pull, conversations and sales: selling or buying?

We like to think that marketing and communication finally have become bidirectional, with a fancy word ‘conversations’. In sales, customer service etc., conversations have always existed. After all, a sales call, is a conversation. It would be quite useless otherwise, wouldn’t it?

But the sales process becomes less and less a conversation in the original sense of the word in this digital day and age. In fact the customer can do many of the things he used to need a sales person for, himself. In practically all stages of the customer journey, the customer can get information about products, companies and so on where and when he wants. And it’s not on your corporate website alone. It’s social networks, peer reviews, you name it and you can’t control it (which doesn’t mean you can’t steer and manage it in the sense of designing it as in customer experience management).

The impact of this phenomenon on the sales process is huge. As a matter of fact maybe one day we might even need to stop talking about sales. Because selling has become more a matter of being ready for the customer that wants to buy from you.

Does this mean sales people have become useless? Of course not. But it means that companies have to rethink their sales strategies. It means that it’s time to narrow the gap between marketing and sales. And it means that the focus should be on facilitating buying processes and following the customer in every stage of the buying cycle.

The pull customer – anywhere anytime

Sales are and remain very important but the rules have changed, as have the conversations we are having with our customers. The number of ‘face-to-face’ sales contacts has even decreased.

But the good news is: with the right attitude, the right focus, the right strategy, the right processes, the right people, the right integration and the right tools sales in fact have more conversations and selling opportunities than before. Or should we say opportunities to lead customers and prospects through the buying process and sending them the right messages at the right time and being ready when they are in that crucial decision stage?

Right very often means ‘integrated’, aligned, connected and putting the customer at the center here. Just as the pull customer is connected and can show up anywhere anytime.

In that connected regard, ask yourself: are you ready for the ‘pull customer’? Are you even ready for him/her in a non-aligned regard in the listening, interacting and acting basics that truly matter? Are you really ready?

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