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Sellers’ Engagement your ability to engage your prospect stops, you

The seller’s new role is customer engage- will most likely lose the sale.
ment, Robert H. Bloom points out in The New Sellers must follow these rules of customer
Experts. In the context of today’s buyer-seller engagement:
equation, “engagement” means substantive • Engagement is not the buyer’s job;
interaction and involvement, but it does not it is the seller’s job.
mean codependency. • Engagement doesn’t just happen; it
These independent buyers do not want must be made to happen. It must be
sellers to be aggressive and arrogant, nor do a practiced discipline, and training
they want sellers to be passive and uninvolved, is essential.
nor are they looking for a lifelong friendship. • Engagement must not be interrupted by
They want, expect and demand the seller’s other business issues, other customer
attentiveness, expertise and service when involvement or any other distractions;
it benefits them most — at their decisive the buyer wants to feel that he or she
moment of purchase. They want sellers to and the firm he or she represents are the
offer them benefits that include but extend only stars in the galaxy.
well beyond financial benefits. They want • Engagement that is backed up by
sellers to offer them meaningful solutions something in writing –– a warranty, a
that directly relate to their wants, needs phrase in the contract, or a card with
and aspirations and to their apprehensions, your home number –– is more valuable
concerns and fears. than a handshake or a promise.
When buyers — even those buyers who • Engagement from a senior executive is far
feel empowered and in control most of the more valuable than from the salesperson
time –– are in their purchasing phase, they the customer is dealing with.
seek and welcome the sellers’ engagement. Your customer has paid for your product or
“Do I like and trust this seller better than other service and is now using, consuming, driving,
sellers?” is the fundamental question that’s wearing, talking on, practicing with or surfing
always running through buyers’ heads. on it. Most important of all, your customer
Buyers initially assess sellers’ abilities and is relying on it. Now — when your product
willingness to deliver this engagement at their or service is paramount with your customer
first point of contact, but it becomes a crucial –– is the best time to reinforce the customer
factor in their decision to move through the preference you created during the purchase
extended consideration, negotiation and trans- progression.
action phase. This is why most transactions are During the decisive keep-or-lose moment,
such a long process and why you have a valuable you must achieve three objectives:
opportunity to create customer preference at the 1. Ensure that your customer is benefiting
make-or-break moment. However, the moment from your product or service, that
performance expectations are met To be successful, you need to unlearn the • Unlearn the assumption that you have
or exceeded, and that the service marketing habit of constantly pitching your to buy access. Instead, create content
and support you promised are being product. Instead, create information that that goes viral, and let millions of people
delivered. helps your buyers to answer their questions tell your story for you for free.
2. Communicate with your customer and solve their problems. Your materials
from time to time to keep your (the company website, brochures, literature, Maximized Touch-Points
company or brand uppermost in programs and other marketing materials) Today’s top brands are meeting the
the customer’s member bank, and should all be created from your buyer’s challenge of building strong, lasting
demonstrate your personal commit- perspective. Work from your buyers’ point customer relationships by taking a personal
ment and involvement. There is no of view. Tuned-in companies reach people approach: They set out to forge an emotional
substitute for the seller’s expression who are eager to buy their products and in-store connection with shoppers. Experiential
of interest in the customer’s level service without being coerced. shopper marketing (or emotional branding)
of satisfaction. Here are five bad habits you must unlearn signals a shift from simply selling products
3. Lay the groundwork for your and what you should do instead: to selling experiences, Marcus Stahlberg and
customer to become a repeat buyer Ville Maila point out in Shopper Marketing.
• Unlearn the habit of interrupting
and advocate. This harnesses the power of the five senses to
people with “messages.” Instead,
When you fail to follow through on connect, engage and excite shoppers:
publish online content they want
each of these objectives at the keep-or-lose
to consume. Sight. Crayola’s vibrant flagship store in
moment –– when you allow customer churn Kansas City uses the emotional impact of
• Unlearn the use of meaningless
to erode profits –– you lose the potential to color to powerful effect. Within the store’s
gobbledygook phrases (such as those
generate revenue that accrues from repeat bright, open-plan interior, color not only
used in a typical mission statement).
purchase and customer referral. imbues the space with a sense of energy and
Instead, focus on the problems and
needs of your buyers. fun, it also operates as an orientating device,
Authentic Connections • Unlearn spin. Instead, understand product identifier and invitation to play.
Successful companies focus on buyers that people crave authenticity and Sound. Abercrombie & Fitch carefully
and the best ways to reach them, and they transparency. tailors its in-store music to match the tastes
develop compelling content and programs • Unlearn egotism and the desire to and preferences of its target market, using
accordingly, according to Craig Stull, force buyers to adapt to your terms. a customized playlist to create an interior
Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott Instead, create online content that puts soundscape in close harmony with the
in Tuned In. the buyer first. brand’s own image –– upbeat, energetic,
fun, youthful, carefree and high-volume.
Smell. An Australian-based fashion chain
took part in a 2007 study to investigate how
in-store atmospherics impacted shopping
behavior and satisfaction levels. A pleasant
but subtle vanilla aroma, particularly when
paired with loud music, was found to exert a
positive influence on the emotional state of
shoppers, enhancing both the retail ambience
and the shopping experience.
Touch. Apple’s flagship stores are
designed to encourage shoppers’ physical,
tactile and personal engagement.
Taste. At the Dean & DeLuca store, an
up-market food provider, numerous tasting
samples engage visitors directly in the food
experience and encourage them to purchase.
These examples of shopper marketing
strategies highlight a definite shift toward
a new shopping paradigm, one that is
increasingly personalized, connected,
active and experience based.
It should be the key objective of any
retailer to make shopping a natural experience
Rituals and Superstition
The more unpredictable the world
becomes, the more we grope for a sense
of control over our lives, and the more we
adopt superstitious behaviors and rituals
to help shepherd us through, according to
Martin Lindstrom in Buyology.
As Dr. Bruce Hood, professor of
experimental psychology at the University
of Bristol in England writes, “If you remove
the appearance that we are in control, both
humans and animals become stressed.”
Hood went on to prove this point during
an address at the British Association Festival
of Science in Norwich. In front of a roomful
of scientists, Hood held up a blue sweater
and offered 10 pounds to anyone who agreed
to try it on. Hands flew up all over the room.
Hood then told the audience that the sweater
once belonged to Fred West, a serial killer
alleged to have brutally murdered 12 young
women, including his own wife. All but a
(from Shopper Marketing by Markus The packaging also makes that first
Stahlberg and Ville Maila) impression on the consumer. Consumers handful of those same hands went down.
will often decide whether or not they are Hood then confessed that the piece of
From the time they notice your brand on going to purchase your product through
the shelf and then purchase it, store it, use it, clothing didn’t actually belong to Fred
their first impression, which is usually West. However, the mere suggestion that
and reuse it over and over again, consumers made through the package.
have formed a personal relationship with the sweater had been worn by the killer was
and an attachment to your brand through Packaging plays an integral role and has a enough to make the scientists shy away.
its package. Packaging is the one medium major impact on shopper marketing. For many Rationally or not, we unwittingly ascribe
that results in a physical relationship with brands, the packaging usually sets the tone
similar power to objects such as “lucky”
consumers. for all of the other communications efforts,
establishing the brand’s overall look and feel. coins, wedding rings and so on.
Products and brands that have rituals or
superstitions associated with them are much
“stickier” than those that don’t. In an unsettled,
–– seamlessly woven into how and Inspire the shopper. As the industry
fast-moving world, we’re all searching for
where customers now live and work. Retail begins to pinpoint time and place for effec-
stability and familiarity, and product rituals
success will be based on how well you know tive content, it is important to recognize the
give us an illusion of comfort and belonging.
and act upon how your customers behave. context. Some product categories are more
After all, most of us are creatures of habit.
Understanding how they shop is not enough to conducive to information-based imagery
be competitive; retailers must understand how and content. For example, as shoppers The reality is that rituals help us form emo-
their customers live, and evolve their retail wait in line at a pharmacy, there is ample tional connections with brands and products.
concepts accordingly. opportunity to inspire them with broader ideas They make the things we buy memorable.
One significant outcome of in-store media about health, wellness and lifestyle that can
developments is an improved understanding of result in significant incremental purchases. Added Value
how to engage shoppers from the perspectives Richer understanding of the potential of According to international studies, when
of creative-generated content and design. all retail touch-points is driving a more a company masters ease and accuracy, its
Here are a few basic principles: complex brand framework, from home to customers are looking for expedited service,
shelf to register. knowledgeable staff, and other aspects of
Put the right message in the right place.
the experience that add value, Joseph A.
The ultimate benefit of in-store communica- Another consideration is that you should
realize that your brand’s packaging is still Michelli reports in The Zappos Experience.
tions is that we are able to target shoppers in
specific departments at the point of decision. one of your most efficient marketing tools Zappos adds value through service by
Deliver the right message at the right for reaching your target consumers. You can 1. Emphasizing velocity. Employees
time. One great advantage of in-store still renovate or launch new packaging for notice when leaders make choices on
media is flexibility. It offers the chance to less than 10-25 percent of the total cost to behalf of service velocity, and so do
produce a television advertisement, produce customers. Rapid order fulfillment is
customize promotional offers to the types of
and run a print ad, or execute a promotion one of the most commonly mentioned
shoppers in the store at any given time. With
and/or display program. Packaging will aspects of Zappos service excellence,
new tools that match in-store advertising
also have a longer shelf-life, making it an according to online reviews.
with register data, the dynamic opportunity
of digital media will be realized. even more cost-efficient method for reaching While most of us notice slow-loading
your customers. web pages or long delivery times, can you
imagine your customers consciously clocking
your service velocity, assessing your serve
page load speed, or shopping you and your
competitors simultaneously? Business leaders Influence? lab and reality gets even wider. Consumers
would be wise to assume that service velocity Over the past four decades, thousands of are far from being as susceptible to influence
is something customers are always either experiments have suggested that marketers as they are being portrayed.
consciously or unconsciously assessing. can easily sway people to act in “irrational”
2. Increasing staff members’ ways. But in the new information environment, The Experience
knowledge of products and service this is becoming less representative of reality, Distinction is created by developing a
delivery. Studies of customer dis- according to Itamar Simonson and Emanuel customer-experience focus. The first step to
satisfaction consistently show how Rosen in Absolute Value. create the Ultimate Customer Experience
important it is to have employees These influences fall into three broad (UCE)®, according to Scott McKain in
who can address the customer’s need categories: framing effects (framing the Create Distinction, is to take a legal pad
and (individually or with your team) ask the
during the customer’s first contact. presentation of products in particular ways),
choice context effects (e.g., creating a question, “What would happen if everything
That research also suggests that the
context of differently priced items to boost went exactly right?” Then record all the
prime reason customers stop dealing
responses. For example, if everything went
with a business is poor service sales) and task effects: the manner in which
exactly right,
interactions, not faulty products. consumers are asked to evaluate the offer.
• How many times would the phone
3. Elevating service recovery. In What happens to these theories of
ring before it was answered? What
the course of millions of site visits choice manipulation and influence in
percentage of your calls should be
and tens of thousands of calls and the “noisy,” information-rich and socially fielded by a live person instead of via
purchases each day, Zappos makes intensive environment that is developing? technology?
mistakes. But Zappos doesn’t catego- First, the relevance of these influence tactics • What sensations would be experienced
rize those errors as failures; instead, has diminished in a world where people by customers when they walk into your
each of those mistakes serves as an can easily assess quality. On average, store? What would the temperature be?
outstanding opportunity for both its better decisions are being made on the What would customers hear? What
business and its customers. information that’s available. Second, the would the store sound like?
Companies like Zappos act swiftly, noise that all this information creates has a The single most important factor here is
take responsibility (often even when the surprising effect. to keep drilling down to the smallest aspects
fault is beyond their control), enable staff Influence and manipulation work best of your interactions with customers and pros-
discretion to fix problems, compensate fairly, when there’s full control over what people pects. Constantly push for what would have to
do a little something extra to acknowledge are exposed to and “noise” is kept to a happen for that contact to be exactly right.
inconveniences, and follow up until the issue minimum. Noise refers to any information For example, it’s been said that Starbucks
is brought to satisfactory closure. that is not under control, often consisting of does not allow its associates to wear cologne
4. Delivering surprise beyond the diverse pieces of data from different sources or perfume on the days they work. The
predicted and normative. Zappos about different aspects and options. In the reason is obvious. When you walk into the
diligently looks for effective ways to current information environment, there are coffee shop, Starbucks wants you to savor
improve its operational excellence, just too many distractions. the aroma of the coffee.
increase personal service delivery, There is very little control over what You must examine your interaction
and go beyond the predictability people see when they shop online, and with your customers and prospects with
challenge to exceed expectations as smartphones are increasingly used by extraordinary precision in order to get it
and surprise customers. brick-and-mortar stores, the gap between the exactly right. v