What Is Disruptive Selling?

“Look at me. Now, look at your man. Now look back at me. He’s not me, but he could smell like me!” That Old Spice ad-campaign remains one of the most memorable in marketing history.

What was it about that man that took us back and possibly made us buy more body wash?

He and the marketing team behind him disrupted our idea of what to expect from a soap commercial. Dove did similarly with their True Beauty campaigns. Tide took a similar route with their most recent Super Bowl commercials.

Defying expectations is where disruptive selling begins. Mark Hunter from SalesHunter defines disruptive selling as any strategy that is “bold enough, unique enough, or out of the ordinary enough to create buzz, and consequently, sales.” This buzzworthy disruption extends beyond the marketing process as well, shattering the expectations of the customer to offer them solutions that they perhaps didn’t even realize they needed.

Buyer Aware

While buyer psychology hasn’t changed much over the years, technology has truly transformed the buying and selling processes. Research shows that buyers get 60-90 percent of the way through the “purchasing journey” before they even contact a salesperson. Bruce Rasmussen of Microsoft demonstrates that before a prospect ever begins engaging suppliers, they’ve already tried to work around their problems and find solutions themselves.

After all, whenever a prospect has decided to buy something, they don’t simply go buy it right away, or at least not anymore. Now, they don’t just have to trust the handyman to tell them what dishwasher to get. They’re not entirely at the mercy of the home improvement store employee to tell us what the best paint is.

Before today’s customers ever approach a sales team, they have likely Googled their perceived need into an oblivion, reading hundreds of reviews and advice columns. They’ve talked to their friends, their uncle, and their 576th friend on Facebook. They’ve compared prices on Amazon. They might have even researched which company they want to approach first, based on mission statements, business ethics, or recent news.

Today’s buyer is hyper-aware of their options. Or so they think. That’s where disruptive selling changes the game.

Shattering the Status Quo

Bruce Rasmussen tells CRN that in the buyer’s process of a disruptive sale, their status quo is shattered. Essentially, the buyer “realizes all is not as good as it could be.” Perhaps they realize their man doesn’t smell quite as good as he could, their clothes aren’t as bright as they were, their CRM isn’t as efficient as it could be, or their data management is falling behind.

In disruptive selling to the hyper-aware buyer, the status quo must be continually shattered, at different places in the buyer’s process, depending on their needs.

While the status quo is challenged early on in the process as the buyer realizes they need something, the status quo must be disrupted again after the buyer has decided, usually through their own research, what it is that they need. So, what they have decided they need might not really be what they need, but you can offer them something better.

Rasmussen explains that “we often see buyers, due to their inexperience, ask sellers for solutions that don’t solve their problem[s].” It’s like those times we go to the doctor because WebMD told us we need antibiotics when all we really need is fluids and rest. Thus, he recommends disruptive selling strategy early in the buyer’s process, before the buyer is set on what precisely they are looking for.

The buyer’s status quo is shattered in the sense that there is a problem, or even just potential for improvement, where they once didn’t notice it. “Hey, my clothes aren’t that bright! My soap doesn’t make me smell that good! I could smell better than I already do!”

In this case, the seller can join the buyer earlier in their journey, so they’re not competing for that last 20-40% of the buying process.

The essence of disruptive sales is expressed in the truth that success comes to those who are willing to step out and shatter the status quo, whether that’s at the beginning of the sales process, or somewhere in the middle. So, go forth, and shatter expectations!