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Strong partnerships between sellers and buyers were once considered the key to success in the marketplace. Yet, despite having the ability to customize products and include clients in the sales process, there was often a barrier that made buyers feel like outsiders. That’s why today it’s all about creating shared experiences and a sense of community.

Top sellers are now treating buyers as insiders whose values and expectations are aligned with the company. What’s more, the best clients are willing to pay extra for collective experiences within like-minded communities.

To create a community of shared experiences for your buyers, let’s first look at the five most common traits of these groups:

  1. Members have the same values and expectations as the community and have willingly joined, versus being strong-armed by sellers.

  1. The community is formed around populations of buyers who relate to the products or services and have a similar viewpoint.  

  1. Every member adds to the community and enriches the collective experience. 

  1. Members can feel they’re providing value and steering the course of the overall group. Younger buyers who are active social media users are particularly attracted to this aspect. 

  1. Sales teams provide resources and interactive tools that support the exchange of information between members so there are opportunities for education.

Among the companies who’ve successfully built these communities of collective experiences is Starbucks. Visit any of the coffee chain’s locations and you’ll always find a line of customers. If the Starbucks is in an airport, the wait can be as long as 20 minutes. And that’s even when people could easily swing into nearby coffee shops and pay less! But, these buyers are loyal. They’re familiar with the brand and tend to have their go-to orders. And they can earn points and discounts through a rewards program.

In fact, more and more companies are benefitting from loyalty programs like the one above. As an elite flyer, I’m reticent to use any other airlines except the ones of my choice. I’ll go out of my way to stay on American Airlines or Canada Air because I don’t want to sacrifice those miles to a company I’m not going to use. The same goes for hotels. I’ll always look for my preferred hotel chain first to maximize my points.

Build a collective experience

Now that we’ve discussed what communities of shared experiences look like, let’s examine how to build one. In today’s competitive market, these groups are vital for retaining clients and for leveraging them for higher yields. Whether it’s by implementing an online forum on your company website, hosting a members-only blog or LinkedIn group; or communicating the latest information through e-news blasts, success ultimately rests on proper execution. Here are several steps to incorporate into your strategy:

Share your knowledge

Insights from the field are precious commodity nowadays. People are seeking good ideas and it’s your job to share what you know. Also, don’t worry about “oversharing”: there’s no cut-off for the amount of knowledge you can provide to your community of buyers.   

Highlight your community’s members

Assemble client testimonials, case studies, and references to demonstrate to your prospects that your clients each share something in common. Fully illustrate how they’re a community with shared experiences in the marketplace. 

Encourage interactions

Help foster a desire for prospects to associate with members of your community. Create environments where like-minded people can interact in person or virtually on a regular basis, and enhance their overall buying experience with your company.  

Support the open exchange of ideas

Once you’ve created the platform for community discussion, step back from micromanaging the conversations. Allow your members to have a free flow exchange of ideas.

Form sub-groups when needed

Create segments within your overall community that can assist members who have common challenges. Give members access to specific problem-solving experts within your company who can offer them privileged insight.

Keep building relationships

Never stop contributing to a good rapport between your sellers and buyers. It’s people who do business with other people, not with faceless corporations. Create new connections and find client advocates by leveraging your community.

By including these measures in the creation of your community of like-minded buyers, you will see a noticeable difference in the way your sellers and clients interact. And in the overall success of your company within today’s competitive marketplace.  

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is the President of Engage Selling Solutions, and an award sales consultant, speaker and best-selling author, including the recent Nonstop Sales Boom. Business leaders trust Colleen to deliver immediate and lasting results with strategies proven to work in today’s competitive market. To follow Colleen and her latest sales insights, visit her blog, connect on LinkedIn and join the conversation on Twitter: @engagecolleen.