The Pace of Commodity Change

What’s the most dangerous word in a salesperson’s vocabulary? Not objections, or features, or open questions…no its commodity. And its incredible how quickly the internet is making everything that can be bought, a commodity. When commoditised, the salesperson becomes redundant as technology drives down the cost of sales as price becomes the only distinguishing factor.

Enough of this doom and gloom talk, let’s move onto tyres.  Car tyres, which I have to say, I know nothing about.  Yes they’re made of rubber and help your car stay safe and there’s legal minimum treads and you can be fined for having unlawful tyres.  Heavily as well and points on your license.

This fear factor drives us to the tyre shop.  We breeze into Kwikfit or ATS and the bloke comes over, covered in oil and dust. Yes it’s a man’s world, he saunters over to you and blinds you with science about balancing, treads, valves, spreading the load, same brand, economy tyres useless, near side and offside tyres.

And you get a pretty hefty bill and a wait in their stuffy room with horrible coffee.

Sound familiar?

Until this month when I went online and had an illuminating experience. The ATS website empowered me to make some decisions about my tyres, explained how treads worked, how balancing worked, gave me a choice of tyres with clear descriptions of each one.  It helped me to make informed choices on the two tyres I needed and all the add-ons that were essential and because I ordered online, gave me a 15% discount.  Nice.

Credit card, appointment made at the Tewksbury depot in two days time to allow them to order in the tyres so you don’t get the “Sorry guv’nor not in stock but we’ve got these brands that are – Sumitoko – they’re a good tyre…honest…cost a bit more”

Something that forever was going to need a sales adviser to guide me through the process has been commoditised and is now only distinguishable by price.

And yes, just before I clicked on “buy now” on the web page, I left the ATS site hanging and headed over to the Kwikfit site to see if the same tyre was cheaper. It was more expensive, so I completed the purchase with ATS. They’re now competing purely on price.

It happened to me on holiday this year. We booked online to stay in an eTap Hotel and checked in at 11 at night purely by credit card and pin number, not a human being to be seen as we fell blissfully asleep on the fresh pillows.

The message?  Are you crystal clear that your sales role adds value to the process, totally sure that your sales process provides a measurable benefit to the client, is essential to the customer getting what they need and want. Don’t hide your head in the sand, thinking, customers will always need me…I’m indispensible…it’s a people business what I do…everything that can be commoditised, will be commoditised.

If you don’t provide huge value to the sales process, you too will be commoditised, just like those Kwikfit Fitters.