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Butchers Block: Climbing The B2B Sales Value Chain In A Digital Age

Full disclosure – I have never visited a butcher but this story I heard about one tempts me to confer the title of “Sales Guru” on the protagonist! The story goes something like this:

Commodity

An old lady in a village went to the market to buy supplies for her home each week. She would buy meat from whichever butcher had the better product on the day at the best price. She was buying a Commodity which offered the sellers little opportunity for differentiation or for long-term customer retention.

 

Think about your online footprint in this light, do you have anything there that showcases the unique value of your offering? Is it available to your target customer segments, when they go looking for that information, where they are likely to go looking for it? If not – why should a customer view you differently? The butcher may have a solution.

Product

Over time the old lady started buying meat more often than not, from the same butcher. He seemed to usually have better quality goods & a reasonable price. This butcher had made the transition to selling a Product with some kind of assurance of quality & a greater potential for garnering customer loyalty.

 

If you are at this stage, chances are your digital presence is conveying a certain sense of your brand – what it represents, and therefore what the customer’s experience is likely to be on engaging with the brand. Is that enough, though? Let’s get back to the butcher to find out.

Service

After a few weeks of serving the old lady, the butcher told her that he had noticed her buying items from a few different shops each week. He suggested that she give him a list of all the things she wanted in the week in advance.  He offered to buy all the items & keep them at his shop for her to pick up when she came to buy the meat. This would save her time & effort & she could still get everything she needed.  The lady eagerly accepted the Service the butcher was offering. The move from a Product to a Service allows much greater scope for differentiation & for tailoring unique benefits for customers that could potentially reduce the need for the customer to consider competitors.

 

In the online context, this stage calls for much greater engagement between the organization and the target audience. This is now becoming a two-way communication – you listen, and then you talk. Online, this would also be the time to start thinking about much finer targeting – not all segments will have similar needs and even if the difference is one of nuances, the service offering needs to reflect that subtlety. Oh, so does the butcher have more to offer? As it turns out, yes.

Relationship

It so transpired that the lady fell ill & could not make it to the market for a couple of weeks. While recuperating at home she was surprised by a visit from the butcher. He had with him a basket of goods typical of those the lady usually ordered, along with some choice cuts of meat. In response to the lady’s incredulity, he said that he had inquired from one of the lady’s friends at the market, the reason for her recent absence & learned of her illness. He thought of paying a visit to check how she was doing & of getting some supplies along since she would not have been able to stock up on provisions for two weeks. Clearly the butcher, apart from being a nice guy, was a true sales genius. With that one step, he moved up the ladder. He formed a genuine Relationship with his customer – something that most sales people dream of. After achieving this stage, as long as, one can consistently deliver value you have a customer for life.

 

In some ways, this is the stage where your online presence can deliver the maximum impact. The online channels should be focused on delivering them the experience they expect, the information they value, and the engagement they want. It’s time to pull out all the stops on the content you create, and the messages you deliver over the social channels. These will be the long-term customers, and most likely the most profitable ones – they deserve all that attention.

 

The story of the butcher & the lady serves up a road map for those of us in sales – the aim should always be to move up the value chain from a Commodity to a Product to a Service & finally a Relationship. The higher one goes the greater the opportunity for differentiation & for cementing customer relationships that last. That, and the fact that the digital footprint has to be in lockstep with the move up the sales value chain!

 

Note: I had published a version of this blog on my personal blog 4 years ago, given how the sales landscape has changed so much in that time with the advent of digital and social I thought it was time for a refresh.

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