For some reason, it’s very difficult for sales people to think beyond ‘need’ and ‘solution:’ We tend to think that because the buyer’s need matches our solution, and because we’re professionals who ‘care,’ the only thing buyers need to do is choose our solution.
But if it were that easy, buying decisions would get made more often in our favor. We certainly would not lose as many sales as we do. The problem is that the buying decision is so, so much more complex than we can imagine as we stand on the outside looking in.
Sales mysteriously treats an Identified Problem (my word for ‘need’) as if it were an isolated event. But it’s not. There are ramifications to any change, and the ramifications are ones only buyers can see from the inside and we will never be privy to.
WHEN DO BUYERS START FIGURING OUT STUFF?
Buyers don’t start figuring out their behind-the-scenes issues until after we’ve met them, except in cases when buyers call us and buy… in which case they’ve made all of the behind-the-scenes buying decisions before they contacted us and we are just lucky.
We come in at the wrong time, pitching a solution to a small portion of the ultimate Buying Decision Team, and have no tools to help buyers do what they must do first: manage all of the off-line buying decisions that need to happen for them to get buy-in for change.
I have said this over and over: the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. Before they can buy anything they first look into their current teams, partners groups, rules, historic decisions for a simple resolution to a business problem. They come to us by default, and even then end up going back inside (to their old vendors, or the other department heads, or the tech team) to do an internal check on resources before placing an order.
WHAT IS BEHIND THE SCENES?
I’ve fully described the actual steps that happen behind-the-scenes in my new book coming out soon (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what to do about it). To think about this, let’s start with this question: How did a buyer’s ‘need’ get there? It didn’t arise overnight, and people and policies inside agreed to allow it to happen. So the ‘need’ got created behind-the-scenes.
Not only that, the system and rules and people and policies have allowed it to remain as it is – or they would have changed it already.
Before a buyer will buy or choose any solution at all, they must first figure out and manage the very idiosyncratic and mysterious ramifications of change. What will a solution change internally? How will the people and policies interact differently if/when they decide to resolve an Identified Problem and bring in something… something different that isn’t already there? Obviously, the sales model doesn’t equip us with the tools to help buyers manage these issues, and we cannot do it for them.
And no solution will be purchased if there is any possibility that the client can resolve their problem on their own.
As we think about sales, and wonder how to close more sales, quicker, we must realize that by merely focusing on the solution-placement area, and we do our ‘understanding’ – understanding need, understanding the decision making, understanding the requirements, helping buyers understand our the judiciousness of our offering – we are not helping the buyer do the behind-the-scenes work they must accomplish before making a buying decision. That work is private, idiosyncratic, personal, unique, and not open to outsiders. And, unfortunately, buyers don’t know how to do this work easily because it’s new to them. But we can help – with a different set of skills.
We can help them by being true servant leaders, true trusted advisors and relationship managers, and guide them through their systemic, off-line, buying decision issues. But it’s not sales. In this time of economic uncertainty, add Buying Facilitation™ and differentiate from your competition – and truly help your buyer buy. And, stop selling.
If you’d like me to write a White Paper for you on understanding the decision issues your buyers face, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out my new book coming out October 15: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what to do about it. Read two free chapters. Sign up for presales deals, and announcements. I’ll be doing a webinar on the material close to the launch date, so stay tuned.
Or have a look at my book Buying Facilitation:the new way to sell that inluences and expands decisions. Click here for two free chapters. It will teach you how to understand and manage the route through the internal decision process. Will it help you make a sale? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure will help you make a client.