In the recent issue of Harvard Business Review, the editor Thomas Stewart, in his editorial, commented that in their article, Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie point out that “…customers’ buying processes have evolved in our world of ubiquitous, instant, global communication, but companies’ selling processes have for the most part stayed the same.’
I’m here to tell you that there is indeed a wholly original new sales process. But are you willing to change what you’re doing to get different results? My history of changing the sales paradigm over the past 16 years has told me that it’s highly unlikely that you are, and you’d rather keep the status quo and work around its inefficiencies (i.e. hire more sales people to make up the slack, cut back on training, reconfigure regions to save personnel) rather than change. And I find it perplexing.
WOULD YOU CHANGE IF THERE WERE A BETTER WAY?
If you heard that using a new sales paradigm could actually give you a 200% increase over a conventional sales model, would you believe it?
If you believed that a new sales paradigm would give you a 200% increase in sales over your conventional sales model, what would stop you from using it?
And why is it acceptable to have wonderful products that too few people are purchasing, too slowly, from sales people who, by definition, have a 93% failure rate, and not be willing to seek new tools to fix it?
In this month’s essay, I’m going to explain why the sales model is outmoded, and offer a new one. I’ll include a Q&A at the end to help you understand that you will be able to close more quickly, sell more product, differentiate from the competition, have real control over the sale cycle and truly serve clients.
HOW THE SALES MODEL HAS CHANGED HISTORICALLY
While it appears as if sales has changed dramatically over the past 25 years, I agree with Trailer and Dickie: I believe we’ve only made changes in content, not in the basic model. Sure, we’ve become far more customer/relationship driven; yes, we’ve added great questions to help the seller discover what a buyer might need; and certainly all of our focus is based on buyers getting their needs met, even, sometimes, at the expense of the product purchase.
Whether by using pitch, presentation, finding the ‘decision makers’, or the well-known selling methods (High Probability, Values Based, Solution, SPIN, Customer-Centric, Sandler Sales, or even Sales Ready Messaging etc.), the object behind every sales model is to sell product.
But sales has never been the problem. Buyers need you, and your product will solve their identified problem. Sellers are great, products are good, pitches and presentations appropriate and professional.
The problem has never been the sales activity or the seller, not the brand or the need. The problem has been the buying decision.
After you connect with the buyer, and pitch, present, visit, etc., the buyer goes into a hidden place and does something mysterious, without you. In fact, with whatever approach used, sellers end up in the same position: helplessly waiting for a return call, and with no way of telling who will call back, when, or if. Sometimes buyers go with a different vendor, sometimes they do nothing, and sometimes it’s something that seems stupid to us. But the model of sales does nothing to manage that mystery no matter how much – or who – the seller knows.
And without managing this internal, hidden ‘something’, nothing will happen. Nothing at all. Managing objections, handling gatekeepers, knowing internal coaches, gathering information, presenting professionally, finding out the politics – none of the sales skills that you possess will manage that hidden place prospects go to and make their decisions.
You end up selling into a closed system that sellers can’t ever know because you don’t live there.
This is difficult for a sales person to understand, especially when it seems your product will easily resolve the identified problem. Yet no matter how big their problem, no matter how difficult it is to continue operating with the disruption and discomfort it causes, the buyer will never make a purchasing decision until the internal elements that maintain and create the status quo agree to buy-in to a solution. And sales doesn’t manage that end of the equation.
SALES IS A OUTDATED MODEL
The model we’re currently using as a ‘sales’ model was designed at a different point in history, for an entirely different purpose: sales was originally invented to introduce product information to people who couldn’t otherwise get it (because travel was difficult in those days sellers had to be face-to-face). It has been a product placement tool with a preference for face-to-face visits ever since. And given the complexity of today’s buying environment, sales is now taking 30% longer to close, regardless of the problem or the sales process.
Buyers no longer need us to give them data or fix their problems, given the availability of information dissemination, media, travel, and communication possibilities.
They actually need us to help them make sense of the process of internal change and choice issues as they go about designing an appropriate solution.
Before he died, David Sandler called me to buy me out: “I didn’t know how to get any farther out of the box than I got, but you really got out of the box. You figured out how to aid the buying process instead of selling.”
It’s time to replace the conventional sales model with a new one – Buying Facilitation – that has a different skill set and outcome:
- buyers no longer need salespeople to give them product data that they can get on the net. In fact, buyers do NOT need your product – they merely need to resolve a business problem.
- buyers live in very complex internal systems that must be managed before they’ll buy. This delays their purchase by months if not years. Until buyers manage the entire system that maintains the identified problem, they will take no action. This is the length of the sales cycle.
WHAT’S STOPPING THE NEW MODEL FROM ACCEPTANCE?
For the past 16 years, I have been successfully training the Morgen Buying Facilitation Method® to major corporations world-wide, and achieving tested increases from 200% – 600% over all other sales models. It’s confusing to me why more American companies aren’t seeking to add an available new model to what they are already doing when the references and results of such high increases are available.
I belong to a group of smart, accomplished folks who get together and teach each other what we know. After years of sharing ideas and being recognized as a new thinker, I was quite surprised to hear a colleague say that he didn’t believe that I actually had a new sales paradigm that could generate a 200% increase over the conventional sales models. If that were indeed possible, he asked, why weren’t all of the CEOs across American banging down my door?
Here’s a man – a well-known economist by trade – who respects me, yet operates out conventional beliefs that actually make some sense: why, indeed, would companies not want to appreciably increase their bottom line if there were a way to do that?
I remember a conversation I had with the Sales Training Manager of a very well known brokerage house: excited by finding Buying Facilitation, he introduced my material to the VP of Sales. He called me the next day: “I was told that we just spent X millions of dollars on sales training a couple of years ago and that we wouldn’t do it again for another couple of years. He didn’t get it, and I don’t know how to get him to understand that Buying Facilitation would give us significantly different results. He didn’t even take the time to really look into it.” He must have believed that nothing new was possible.
So what has to be true for sales managers to disregard the possibility of getting incredibly different results? Either they:
- are really happy with their revenue;
- don’t believe that doing anything new is necessary or possible;
- won’t consider ‘going outside the box’ (if it doesn’t look, act, perform like conventional sales models, it’s obviously not valid);
- can’t handle the disruption of a new model;
Or maybe it’s just that a visionary idea takes whatever time it takes to filter into the mainstream no matter what the results are (The internet was developed in 1991, and it took Bill Gates 6 years to focus any effort on the idea – and only then when a staff person persuaded him to.).
What’s so interesting is that in this time of extenuated closings and difficulties differentiating offerings, managers are changing the people, training, and organizational structures, rather than consider that the model itself is broken.
It’s time to change the way we sell: the model is out of date, and very inefficient. You’ve got a great product, great sales people, a great brand. Now all you have to do is to learn a new skill set to help buyers decide how to manage their internal systems so they can choose you much more efficiently.
Do I need to understand what the prospect needs?
Ultimately you will need to know. But not until buyers understand their decision process. Sales is actually a two-phased process and you’ve never had the tools to manage the buying decision phase. Believe it or not that must come first, as they need to understand their internal decision systems before they understand their needs.
Use your initial communication(s) with the prospect to facilitate them through their decisioning process and teach them how to recognize the people, policies, and relationships that must be part of their decision. After the buyer has lined up all decision criteria, then it’s time for your pitch and information gathering questions.
I’m always curious as to what has stopped the prospect from solving their problem yesterday. Facilitating them through a systems exploration gives them insights into what needs to happen before they move forward.
If I am not discussing or pitching my product, what type of control will I have over the interaction?
Do you have control now? You do such a great job gathering data and positioning your product, managing objections, and knowing what they need, why aren’t you closing all of your sales now?
The mystery in sales has always been what buyers do when they disappear. Buying Facilitation codes the way buyers make internal decisions based on the entire system they live within that has created and maintains the identified problem, and that needs to be addressed before taking action.
As an example, if there is a new business partner who will get disenfranchised with a change, or an historic rule that will be broken, or a beloved vendor that could possibly manage a piece of the solution, nothing will be done until it’s all tackled. Sales doesn’t address these issues, and prolongs the sales cycle by the factor of their internal complexity.
How does this increase sales to such a great extent?
Buyers won’t buy until all of their internal ducks are in a row. The time it takes them to do that is the length of the sales cycle. Buying Facilitation has the decision cycle sequenced, so you can lead the buyer through the decisions they need to make (separate from how your product could apply). They need to do this anyway – with you or without you. You can help them navigate their own journey.
Buying Facilitation is for any size sale (from a $15 cosmetic, to a $50,000,000 tax solution). It has brought a 3 year sales cycle to 4 months with just a small presentation and no proposal (a Big Four accounting firm with an international project), a 6 month sales cycle to 3 weeks (a Fortune 50 software company with a $50,000 solution), 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales (a major insurance company), a 1-2 year close with many field visits and competition from all other major banks, to a 2 or 3-call close with no competition (major American bank).
Also, current prospecting models attempt to get to the top, or make an appointment with ‘the decision makers’. This leaves out those prospects who don’t know they need something, don’t like the seller or sales approach, don’t have the time to see someone, etc. You are leaving behind X% prospects who actually may need your product. And you end up finding those who already know they have a need and are in the early stages of seeking a vendor. That means that you are automatically in a compromised and competitive situation.
Buying Facilitation will differentiate you, find the right prospects and increase your prospect list, and delete those who are inappropriate, saving you months or years of following up the wrong prospect.
Using Buying Facilitation, revenue increases dramatically due to 1. finding and shaping those prospects who want to connect with only you, and will eliminate inappropriate prospects immediately; 2. visiting prospects when they are ready to close and have their entire decision team on board; 3. teaching buyers how to manage their internal decisions and getting all decision makers involved right away; 4. differentiating yourself from the competition by becoming a true trusted advisor.
Are you saying that I don’t need to make appointments and see prospects?
Don’t use your body as a prospecting tool. Only go to see those prospects who have defined their closing process. For example, Buying Facilitation has been used on the phone with a Big Four accounting firm (and a multimillion dollar international sale) to help bring together all of the international partners on both the seller side and the buyer side before a face visit was made, saving months and months of lead time.
Because it’s a facilitated questioning model, the questions don’t need a face visit, and the seller ultimately presents in person only when the entire team (including the seller) decides what the seller should present. So your presentations will include the exact data the decision team needs.
People buy in two phases. Before understanding what product to buy, they must manage all internal systems elements that created and maintained the problem so making a change won’t cause disruption. Until now, you’ve only known how to manage the product data piece of the sales equation (Phase 2). Buying Facilitation sits on top of sales and manages the buying decision (Phase 1). Are you ready for something new?
You can learn it now, or wait until it the model has taken hold in the mainstream, thereby putting you in the same sort of competition you’re in now. Will it cause disruption and change? Yes. Will it give you new skills and be uncomfortable at first? Yes, and yes. Will it give you a huge increase in revenue. Yes.
You must ask yourself: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy?