When I tell sales folks their sales cycle is double what it should be, they assume I’m lying. But I’m not. I’m just using a different model than sales to being my client contact: Given that the typical sales model builds in time delays and leaves the seller out of the behind-the-scenes discussions going on, there is no way to get onto the Buying Decision Team on the first call.
My clients consistently close sales in a minimum of half the time it used to take them. Why? Because Buying Facilitation™ gets them onto the Buying Decision Team on the first call, and they immediately being helping navigate the buyers through their often unknowable internal decision issues.
It’s not rocket science: the sales model pushes against the status quo, causing the status quo to defend itself. Sales treats a buyer’s alleged need, or ‘problem,’ as if it were an isolated event; it has no capability to support buyers as they discover and manage the off-line change management issues they must address internally and privately prior to making a purchase. Indeed, the buyer’s internal system fights any chaos that would take place if the new solution entered too soon, and thereby rejects outside influence.
Think about coming home with a brand new luxury car before discussing the purchase with your wife or managing the budget or garage space: just because the family might need a car, until or unless all of the internal factors are managed, no change can take place without chaos.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE NEED
It’s not about the need, or the solution. Until or unless buyers figure out how to navigate through the off-line systems issues so that there will be no disruption, they will take no action and make no purchase, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.
When you enter the call as a neutral navigator, and recognize your first job to be a GPS system that helps the buyer make sense of their internal politics and relationships and vendors and tech groups, and how they all support change or a new solution, you can be immediately recognized as a true support person and put onto the Buying Decision Team immediately. But note: don’t think ‘sales’ as it’s not a sales model.
ON KPMG’S BUYING DECISION TEAM
I’ll recount a very funny story – my favorite of how I got onto the Buying Decision Team. Years ago I received a call from the training partner at KPMG. He had interest in learning Buying Facilitation™. He actually said, “Intuitively, I can tell that using this model would decrease our sales cycle (which it ultimately did – from a 3 year sales cycle to a 4 month sales cycle).”
As he started asking me questions, I stopped him and turned the conversation around: no matter how brilliant my solution was, if he and his Buying Decision Team didn’t know how to choose it and if it didn’t fit with their environment, it didn’t matter as he wouldn’t be able to buy it.
“How are you currently adding new skills to the ones you currently train to your Partners?” “What has stopped you from offering the skills that would help your Partners support the buyer’s buying process rather than being solution-driven?”
After a couple of these Facilitative Questions, he didn’t have any answers. I told him to get some answers and call me back. And to this end, I gave him a couple of more Facilitative Questions to help him navigate through his confusion. He called me back a few days later with a couple of Senior Partners on the phone.
“I figured if we’re going to consider bringing you in, we might need a couple of the decision makers to get involved with helping me figure it out. I wasn’t doing such a great job on my own anyway – your questions made me realize this was a larger undertaking than just bringing you in.”
He introduced me to the 2 others, and I began posing more Facilitative Questions. One of them stumped them:
“How would you and your Buying Decision Team know, before you began, that taking the time and paying the price to bring in a new skill set – Buying Facilitation™ or anything new – would give you the skills you seek?”
They didn’t know the answer to this, so I told them to call me back when they had the answer. This back and forth went on for a total of 2 months; on each call there were more people than the previous call. Finally, one Friday when I was in Toronto with a client, they called me at 7:00 a.m. with about 15 people from several countries on the call.
As I was going through more of my Facilitative Questions (which were help them figure out how to manage internal change, who would need to be involved to get the necessary internal buy-in, how the change would have to be managed at each step of the way, etc.), one of the participants said to my initial client:
“Hey Steve. What is she selling?”
Silence. Finally, “I have no idea.’
“How long have you been talking to her.”
“About two months.”
“Two months and you have no idea what she’s selling?”
“Sharon-Drew, why haven’t you ever given us a pitch?”
“Until you all understand what change will look like, and you get the internal buy-in you need to bring in a new program such as the one I have, it doesn’t matter what I’ve got, does it?”
“If you don’t give me a pitch now, I’m going to hang up.”
So I gave him a pitch. And we worked together for 2 years. How much time did I put in? Probably a total of about 60 minutes over 2 months. No proposal. No money discussions. No objections. No competition.
If I had taken the first call and done a pitch, I assure you that the Partners would have stopped the collaboration in its tracks, as it was obvious they had no idea how to bring in another ‘consultant’ or know what success would look like. But I taught them how to figure it out. And I was their guide all the way through.
Would you rather sell? or have someone buy. They are truly two different things.