How Buyers Buy: What Sellers Need to Know to Close Sales

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For the past 15 years or so, I've been writing books and articles on the process I've developed that gives sellers the skills to teach buyers how to manage their systemic buying process.
The good and bad news is that the field of sales is just now realizing that the buyers process is actually an important element of the sales process.
It remains problematic, however, when sellers continue directing their focus toward product sale rather than decision facilitation and use what they think is knowledge about the buyer's buying patterns as a manipulation into the selling end of the equation.
It doesn't work.
Selling and buying are two separate, disparate, activities.
Let's say you know how a buyer buys - which is impossible for an outsider and difficult for an insider, given personalities, politics, communication, roles/rules, etc.
But for arguments sake, let's say you know exactly all of the internal, unique, systemic elements that to into the buyer's unique, internal system and corresponding set of decisions.
What are you going to do with that information? How would you sell into that? If you know, say, that the CEO makes all decisions, are you going to go over the head of your contact to try to persuade the CEO? Or spend months attempting to get in to see the CEO, only to be told once you're there that s/he takes direction from a department head? I had a neighbor who was on the Board of a Fortune 50 company.
He attempted to get me training work in the company.
Didn't work: the department heads (who met with me out of courtesy) told me they liked the way they were selling and didn't want to change.
What if it's a committee? Are you going to call each person - even the ones you haven't been introduced to - and take a 'few moments' of their time? And then what? What if it's a small business, a Mom and Pop, and you know that the spouse needs to be involved? Are you going to wait for a time when you know your prospect isn't around, and make a sneaky call in to the spouse? And then what? I know a company that has been awaiting a decision on a multimillion dollar service solution, and their perceived clients - the tech group - aren't even involved in the decision: it's a Union decision.
The techies have not invited the Union onto the decision team, and they don't even live in the same country.
In fact, only one person is in touch with the Union and it's a person in a different department at a higher level of responsibility than the seller's contact.
OUTSIDERS CAN'T KNOW AN INSIDER'S DECISION STRATEGY As an outsider, you can't get into the heart of the buyer's decision system.
The thought that you could do so is fallacious on two counts:
to think that just because you know 'how' someone makes a buying decision (can we ever really know that?) and can influence that decision is arrogant; you will not be invited in to help.
You just won't.
Sorry to be so blunt, but this is the very core of why sales takes so long to close.
Buyers close when they have all of their own answers.
It's not about the product.
It's not about the seller.
It's not about the need.
It's not about the money.
They see the same problem that you see.
They just have to manage, somehow, all of the internal elements that need to be addressed prior to designing a solution that will not create disruption.
I once ran a pilot program for a very large insurance provider.
In my course prep, I discovered that the sellers were paid on the number of visits they made, not on closed sales.
I sat down with my client and the person with the pen who devised compensation, and we agreed that, after my program, the sellers would get paid by closed sales.
"Sure," she said.
"If that helps incentivise them, let's do it.
" We had a 600% increase in sales the first month - they went from 110 field visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales.
Pretty close to a visit-to-sale ratio of 1:1.
Good, huh? Given their newfound ability to help buyers quickly line up their decision criteria, the sellers only visited prospects that were ready to close, and even found more folks than normal who needed their service (Prospects didn't hang up on a cold call like that had initially, due to the difference in skills and structure of a facilitative call.
).
Imagine not wasting any more windshield time.
Imagine having more office time to find those prospects who want your product and want to close, rather then work so hard to find that 7% that are seeking your offering! The sellers were ecstatic.
My client was thrilled.
We were ready to roll the program out to 1500 people.
And then the paychecks came.
The sellers were paid on visits; the checks were paltry - with visits down from 110 to 27, they got ¼ their normal pay.
What happened? The person with the pen decided she couldn't change the pay modality.
And wouldn't.
That ended the deal.
So who was the decision maker? Not my client and not my successful pilot, certainly.
And, how was I to further influence that situation? Iplaced a few calls into the woman with the pen.
She never returned my calls.
Oh: my students went back to their old approach, and my client got fired.
Let's assume that buyers live in idiosyncratic situations that are not only hidden from us as outsiders, but are mysterious to the insiders as well (In the case above, my client was the VP of Sales and actually had little to do with the finance people.
).
How can sellers have major influence over a decision that is initiated or compounded by those outside of their natural purview? Or one that has elements way outside of your contact's normal control? Eventually, through the chain of decisions that must be made before a new product or service gets introduced into a company, group, or family, all of those decision elements must be addressed and managed.
Even at the retail end of the market, the buyer needs to line up internal, personal decisions before making a purchase.
But at the time the discovery process begins - when a problem is first recognized, or a prospect begins to examine their status quo to notice a possible problem - there is no way a buyer can understand all of the decision elements that must be addressed before adopting or designing a solution.
This discovery process must be done, with you or without you.
And the time it takes - the people and policies, politics and partners, that have to be discovered, managed, included, addressed, reconsidered - determines the length of the sales cycle.
Not your product.
Not their need.
Not their budget.
Not your relationship.
Not your professionally demeanor.
IT'S ABOUT THE BUYER, NOT THE SELLER Until now, you've used your job to find unique ways to push product.
As a result, you've suffered over-long buying cycles, objections, product commoditization, and prospects who may purchase the wrong product from the wrong supplier (if they even make a purchase).
Occasionally I get notes from folks saying they've been using my process for years, and they don't consider Buying Facilitation a new method.
Every time I ask these folks just what they think I'm advocating, I hear the same thing: ask questions to find out what the prospect needs, ask questions to find out what their buying system entails, and then appropriately manage the ensuing behaviors.
Yet this is a description of consultative selling.
Sellers do NOT need data about the prospect during the decision discovery phase of the sales cycle.
Indeed, as we've seen above, the buyer is the one who needs to take action and make discoveries.
The type of question used in Buying Facilitation helps the prospect make mental/strategic links to those elements that need to be included, and makes action items obvious.
Then buyers design their unique solution that includes all relevant variables.
For decades, probably centuries, you've needlessly accepted a 93% failure rate in your sales processes.
Shift your focus from selling product to supporting solution design.
It's easier, quicker, more ethical, and makes you a true trusted advisor.
Not to mention that you'll close a helluva lot more sales (200-600% according to our records with major companies we've trained over the past 13 years).
To address the entire decision/sales process and lead buyers to effective decisions you must recognize:
  1. you don't have the answer, and your product isn't it;
  2. all buying decisions are made using the same internal systemic elements (see NewSalesParadigm.
    com and look under What is Buying Facilitation and the Funnel);
  3. it's your job to lead buyers through their decisions to a solution design.
It's time to change your job.
Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities.
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