The Informed Customer

Black phoneThe US consumer is far more informed today than any time in the past. And this goes double for businesses. When somebody goes to sell something as complex as the triple play mix of products, one has to assume that most customers will have already done some research on the web to find out what they can about your company and your products.

In the past one of the first steps of the consultative process of selling telecom services was to inform the customer about all of the options. And so salespeople were equipped with slide shows and handouts that would explain what their products can do. But from what I hear it is getting to be the rare event when a business customer doesn’t already have a pretty good idea of what they want to buy. They will have done their web researched, read reviews, and talked to peers before they are going to accept a sales visit from you.  They are already fairly well-informed before the first sales knock on their door.

This has changed the sales process because often it’s then just a matter of talking price and logistics. Where it used to take multiple visits to sell a business customer, many of them can be sold in one or two visits. This leads me to talk a bit about how telecom companies portray their products on the web. I have browsed through hundreds of telco and cable websites looking at how they portray products and prices and more often than not I am surprised by what I find.

A lot of companies spend time on their web site talking about who they are, but very little time talking about what they sell. In fact, there are a significant number of telecom companies that don’t even list their products on the web. Even among those that do, very few companies list their pricing. This is an interesting trend, because back when the web was new companies routinely had their product list on the web. But over the years the information about product and pricing has shrunk rather than grown.

And I think this is a mistake. This is not being responsive to the way that customers want to shop and buy today. Individuals and companies are used to completing sales transactions on the web without talking to anybody. They are used to now doing their own research and deciding what products are right for them on their own.

I hear a number of different reasons why companies don’t have full disclosure on their products and prices. Here are some of the most common ones:

I don’t want my competitors to know what I am doing. Really? Can you possibly think that any competitor of your does not already have a big pile of your bills that they have gathered from your customers? Do you really want to make it harder for customers to do business with you because you are afraid of your competitors? Customers are going to welcome your openness, candor and ease of use if you make it easier for them to shop with you.

I don’t want to make it easy for customers to disconnect. This is one of the dumbest excuses I have ever heard. Can you really think that a customer is not going to drop services because they have to call you? Just the opposite is true, and the customer that goes to the web to easily drop a service they don’t use today is just as likely to come back and add a different feature six months from now. Your customers will love that you have made it easy to shop with you.

I sell in packages and I don’t want to quote prices on the web. Then say this. Describe your process for how you sell to a customer so that they know exactly what to expect from you. It is far more likely that a customer won’t call you if you have no product information on the web than if you instead tell them about what to expect from you.