I’ve written before about Google’s seminal research on the “Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT). For those not familiar with this, Google identified that pre-internet, every prospect had to talk to a salesperson in order to get information needed to make a purchasing decision. They referred to this as the “First Moment of Truth” (FMOT).
With the internet, prospects now do research on their own, often intentionally avoiding salespeople until (and only if) they absolutely have to do so. This “Zero Moment of Truth,” happening before the FMOT radically changes the sales dynamic in many ways:
- The salesperson no longer benefits from an asymmetry of information in their favor. At best, there is information parity; at worst, the asymmetry is now in the prospect’s favor. In many ways, we’ve moved from a caveat emptor (“Buyer Beware”) world to one of caveat vendit (“Seller Beware”).
- Manipulative models and tactics simply don’t work as well as they did before, if at all. In fact, given a much more knowledgeable and savvy prospect, these tactics can backfire and lose. Authenticity thus replaces tactics. This isn’t just a moral statement, it’s now a business imperative.
- Salespeople are now more curators of information than providers. While prospects are more knowledgeable and savvy, they are still much less experienced, so the opportunity now is to connect with them by teaching them something about the process they’re going through. “Always be closing” should now be replaced with “always be helping”
- Connections come best by asking great questions more than giving good answers. Prospects mostly trust only the answers they can find or verify on their own. So, you can lose the business by giving bad answers but rarely can you win it with good answers. On the other hand, asking good questions demonstrates sincere interest in prospects and their needs, and builds credibility and trust faster than any other approach.
- There’s an even greater need to be able to take control of the conversation in a sophisticated way. Salespeople used to naturally control the conversation because they controlled the information. Now, prospects believe they know a lot more, and many want to control the conversation. Learning how to be assertive without being aggressive is a key skill in the post-ZMOT world.
Lastly, I would propose one more critical change: the value of a guest card, and particularly a visit, is MUCH higher than it used to be. Pre-ZMOT, leads and visits were just part of the prospect’s discovery process. Now, they’ll likely only contact you, and certainly only schedule a visit, if they’re serious about your community. They’ve already been able to learn enough to eliminate you if you don’t meet their needs. So any guest card and every visit means you’re at least a “semi-finalist” in their decision process.
This makes follow up that much more critical. I continue to be amazed how few operators utilize tools like automated email drip campaigns. On the sales side, many salespeople in our industry simply “dial for dollars” making follow up calls that might continue the conversation, but they don’t advance it. So ask yourself two critical questions:
1. Do we regularly follow up on every single lead and visit with zero leakage in our sales funnel?
2. Does every follow up advance the conversation closer to a decision, even if that decision is not to rent with us, as opposed to merely continuing the conversation?
If you don’t answer with an emphatic “YES!” to both questions, then there’s a huge opportunity for you to improve your sales performance and leverage the post-ZMOT sales world to your benefit!