- you could find real prospects early in their Buying Journey?
- you could discover non-buyers immediately while leading real prospects efficiently through their Buy Side steps?
- none of this involves sales, product details, need, or pitch?
How can you promote buying without “sales, product details, need, or pitch”? I believe that by relying on these concepts exclusively you close less sales than you deserve given your efforts and the quality of your solution.
I suggest that by adding new thinking and tools that facilitate and enable buying from the Buy Side – wholly different from Sales Enablement that facilitates the Sell Side – you’ll not only find people on route to becoming buyers, but you can help them be ready to close. Let me explain.
SELL SIDE VS BUY SIDE
All current technology in Sales Enablement, marketing, and ABM is biased toward the Sell Side with a focus on finding, enabling, and engaging folks with an assumed need to ultimately make a purchase. But we overlook an audience of potential prospects 50% larger; our current tools overlook the differences in goals, steps, considerations, decisions, and activity that occur as people try to resolve a problem on the Buy Side.
Sure, we track ‘buying’ but, generally, only in terms of product sale – the Sell Side – and overlook the change management activities that people must address before they’re even buyers.
People don’t start off wanting to buy anything, merely resolve their problem at the least ‘cost’ to their system. They begin by figuring out how to congruently manage change.
Indeed, a buying decision is a change management issue well before it’s a solution choice issue. Because sales tools are aimed at how sales and marketing define ‘buying’ and only apply to the Sell Side, folks in the process of possibly becoming buyers but aren’t there yet, won’t heed our messages trying to sell them anything.
Until people understand the entire fact pattern of what and who’s involved and know what any change means to them, they can’t have a full understanding of a need. They certainly don’t read unsolicited marketing material or take appointments, regardless of a need or the efficacy of a solution.
But take heart! By holding off on conventional sales and marketing until these folks are self-identified as buyers, there’s a way to not only find them but facilitate them through the process they must manage, making it easier for them to buy and for us to sell: those who would never buy fall out, those who become buyers will do so faster, and their names can be handed over to Sales Enablement, ABM, or a sales professional as real prospects.
MY JOURNEY AS A BUYER
As a million-dollar producer on Wall Street in the 70s, I thought buyers were incongruent. We called them ‘stupid buyers’ because they didn’t ‘understand’ what we believed they needed.
In 1983 I became a tech entrepreneur in London and recognized the problem I had had as a seller: Before I could buy anything, I had stuff to do internally that had nothing to do with making a purchase. I certainly wouldn’t consider buying anything until I had no other options. To resolve my problems, I had to
- understand the full problem set by hearing everyone’s thoughts on how they were affected and what they considered a solution;
- try available fixes to resolve the problem internally;
- understand the ‘cost’ of doing something different;
- get buy-in from those who would connect with the solution;
and, once I understood what the change would entail, determine if the problems were worth fixing. Obviously if a fix caused more problems than leaving things as they were, it wasn’t worth solving. But we couldn’t know that until the end of our considerations. Honestly, I didn’t even understand my real ‘needs’ until I had done all of the above.
There seemed to be unknown implications in doing anything different, necessary to take into account beforehand. I certainly hadn’t realized how much disruption was involved, that making any change (all problem-solving involves change) had to be first considered via thoughtful change management assessments and buy-in, to make sure we ended up ‘butter side up’.
Eventually we fixed some of our problems internally. Indeed, I didn’t start off wanting to buy anything, merely wanting to fix problems as simply and congruently as possible. Buying anything was the very last thing on my mind. Last thing.
After leaving my company I became an author of the first NYTimes Business Bestseller on sales (Selling with Integrity) and inventor of Buying Facilitation® that taught sales professionals how to facilitate the Buy Side change management process – the process the sales model ignored because it had little to do with ‘need’ or solution placement.
‘Need’ is a big one in sales; it’s assumed if need can be ascertained, the person should buy. Yet there’s a case to be made that ‘need’ is not necessarily a precursor to buying. Here’s an example of a client with a need who ended up not buying because of what it would ‘cost’ to change.
Years ago I ran a pilot Buying Facilitation® training at Proctor and Gamble, in hopes that if successful I could train the other 15,000 sales folks.
The program was tremendously successful – 15% increase over the control group’s 2% which in this instance potentially increased sales by billions of dollars annually. Good, right? But the ‘costs’ ended up being higher than they wanted to ‘spend’. To implement Buying Facilitation® internationally, they’d need to
- bring in new machinery to manufacture products faster,
- get more trucks and drivers to transport products to outlets faster,
- pay more shipping and air rate costs,
- reorganize their management structure,
- bring in more assistants, customer service reps, etc.
They calculated it would cost almost $2,000,000,000 (That’s billion.) and take years to recoup, not to mention explain it to their shareholders.
It had never occurred to me to consider what the ‘cost’ of success would be for them. Neither did they. My client said if she’d realized how much more they’d sell and how much faster, she wouldn’t have done the pilot. Confounding.
In this case, they needed the training and loved both me and my ‘solution’ but couldn’t handle the cost of the change. Need, as I learned, had little to do with buying and is actually quite subjective. And outsiders can never factor the private equation.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT BEFORE SELLING
As an entrepreneur I was responsible to staff, solution, and clients. I had to address problem solving as a change management issue and make sure all voices were heard and everyone bought into change.
But as a seller, I never considered the point of view of change. Everything I did, created, or thought was on the Sell Side. I was taught product knowledge, how to listen for a way ‘in’ so I could mention my solution in their context, pose questions that implied a need, start a ‘relationship’ so they’d like me, and assume every ‘need’ or ‘problem’ should be resolved with my solution. As if the Sell Side were the only side.
But how much time I wasted finding and seeking ways to influence folks who weren’t, and might not ever be, buyers! Creating marketing materials to entice would-be buyers who were in process but not ready – certainly not eager to read unsolicited articles on something they didn’t yet know they couldn’t handle themselves.
And how much opportunity I overlooked facilitating would-be buyers to more efficiently figure out what they had to figure out so they would be ready to buy. My ‘Sell Side Only’ practices restricted my audience to those who already considered themselves buyers.
There’s a much larger group of would-be prospects who are not-yet buyers, and won’t be reached with sales assumptions:
- those still trying to resolve their problem internally;
- those with a problem they don’t want to resolve (now);
- those seeking different solutions or from different vendors;
- those you’ve mistranslated when they respond to your questions and don’t even have a need.
I now finally understood why buyers seemed so stupid: they weren’t even buyers! All those years assuming my solution, ‘relationship’, and marketing materials would convince, influence, or encourage when I could have been using an additional tool kit to lead them efficiently through their change before trying to sell them anything! We’ve overlooked a potentially lucrative audience.
THE STEPS OF CHANGE
I eventually unpacked each step I took during my decision and buy-in process so I could duplicate the route I took as I became a buyer myself.
Turned out my change management process had 13 steps from which I developed Buying Facilitation® for sales, and trained over 100,000 sales folks globally with an average 40% close rate (against the control group’s 5.4%). But these same steps are markers for marketers as well.
Here are the main elements of the 13 step change management path all people go through before they identify as buyers or even understand their needs:
- Recognize a problem
- Gather the full complement of stakeholders to understand the full fact pattern that caused and maintains the problem
- Figure out how to fix the problem with available resources
- Understand the downside, the ‘cost’, of making a change
- Get the buy in from the stakeholders to agree to the change
- Agree on the criteria that an external solution must meet
- Choose a solution that will match their criteria.
If you remember times you bought something, you didn’t begin with the purchase, but could have used help figuring out what you had to figure out – so much of it unknown until the end.
Since the time it takes folks to complete their process is the length of the sales cycle, why not help them? While we wouldn’t be able to sell them anything until the process is complete, we would be selling our services and inspiring trust, and be there as real relationship managers and trusted advisors when they more quickly become buyers. Certainly a competitive advantage.
I suggest it’s time to add technology and new thinking in both sales and marketing to enable the Buy Side to
- find and help people going through change in the area the solution can benefit,
- efficiently lead them through their steps to problem-solve and make decisions,
- gather the right set of stakeholders to involve at each step,
- offer the best available knowledge so each step will explore the cost – and resolution – of the change.
By adding a change management component to marketing and ABM (Buying Enablement), it’s possible to
- recognize non-buyers immediately, and disengage,
- lead would-be buyers through their next steps efficiently,
- understand where, exactly, people are along their 13 step change management/Buying Decision Path,
- efficiently and very quickly lead those who will be buyers through their core change decisions to the point of being ready to buy,
- build trusting relationships through helpful content,
- create a competitive advantage as you truly serve,
- pass the names of real prospects over to sellers and/or sales enablement to do the sales job.
Selling and Buying are two different activities. Let’s develop two different outreach and facilitation processes that work together to efficiently find, engage, and enable real buyers.
BUYING ENABLEMENT AND SALES
In addition to my Buying Facilitation® model that teaches the process of change facilitation to sales folks, I have developed Buying Enablement for marketing to lead folks efficiently through their steps and then hand over names of in-target buyers to Sales Enablement and ABM for the Sell Side.
In other words, help those on route to buying do what they need to do anyway and stop wasting resource following and pushing content to folks you think SHOULD buy but aren’t yet ready. Then hand over real names to SE and sales.
Buying Enablement enters through marketing to facilitate each change management step on the Buy Side, helps would-be buyers become buyers efficiently, then hands off names of real prospects to sales. Of course search analytics can be used, but they will include new terms and timing. The process addresses these points:
- Finding people getting ready to, or in the process of, working internally to resolve a problem that your solution could resolve;
- Noting specific markers to send specific content;
- Helping uncover elements that caused and maintains the problem;
- Facilitating the recognition, incorporation, and buy-in of all stakeholders;
- Diagnosing and resolving the actual ‘cost’ of change to the system;
- Finding a workaround or simple fix where possible;
- Determining sales add-ons – sales enablement, Buyer Personas – to move the activity over to sales.
Buying Enablement makes the Buy Side more efficient. Here’s what I offer:
- Buy Side training: For both sales, marketing, and customer service professionals to understand the profound differences between the Buy Side and the Sell Side so all can work in tandem going forward.
- Data gathering/report: To understand specifically how your specific buyers buy, I’ll speak with several current buyers to discover
a. the timing, activity, search, people, and constraints during each stage of problem solving and change management;
b. what they do and when to understand the full problem set. Includes people, relationship, history, and policy issues and snags encountered;
c. patterns of (external) factors that bias problem maintenance and resolution, and cause resistance;
d. the possible workarounds and range of solutions they’re considering to resolve the problem and how they fare;
e. understand their risks in bringing in something new and how that affects people, policies and solution choices;
f. the times they go online to research each stage and the search terms they use at each stage and why.
I recommend my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell to better understand each step on the Buy Side.
- Marketing tools, article ideas, and Buyer Personas for each stage. I will suggest best practices and offer article titles along each step, to get folks the knowledge to do what they need to do. Ardath Albee will design Buyer Personas that lead people through each change management stage. With this full tool kit you’ll know
a. where prospects are in the buy-cycle,
b. the job titles of those involved,
c. have a line between marketing -> content -> sales,
d. offer titles so marketing can personalize the best content for each stage,
e. be relevant to the specific needs of your audience.
- Digital App: My ‘The Decider’ app can be populated with the knowledge learned from the Report to
a. efficiently lead folks through their decision phases if they need help;
b. digitally lead site visitors to the pages with data they need from your site and/or your company,
c. use with sellers in Deal Rooms,
d. discover which stage of a change decision they’re at to make sure the best content is sent out to them at the right time.
- Footers: Since they’re not yet buyers, we must be careful how solution details are offered. Ardath Albee can tie the right words, tone, style, and voice to ensure buyers are engaged personally.
- Connect with Sales Enablement: This process will produce probable buyers to hand over to sales and Sales Enablement and continue outreach throughout the length of the customer life cycle.
With our close ratios dropping, and more money being spent to engage it’s time to begin adding Buying Enablement to marketing and Buying Facilitation® to sales. Is it solution related? Nope. But people must do all these things before they’re buyers anyway. We might as well help them.
Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.