Would you buy a house without discussing it with your wife or family? Would you even know all of the buying criteria without their input?
Would you bring in a leadership training without getting the buy-in from the people who would be trained? Or know their criteria without their voices?
Would you choose a web designer without getting the buy-in from the current design team and the techies? Would you know what they would want included until they offered their opinions or knew what parts they wanted to do themselves?
I recently had a coaching call with a SVP at a well-known CRM Management company. The man had a Harvard MBA, had been a partner at Accenture, and now was running the Texas sales operation for this CRM company. This is not a stupid man, obviously, but a man steeped in the ‘sales’ thinking modality.
During his session he wanted to put together a set of Facilitative Questions that would help his prospect (a hardware company with a sales force of 1500) buy his solution during his ‘big meeting’ that he finally got. Who was going to be in the meeting? I asked.
SS: There will be 10 people there: the head of sales and her team, and the head of marketing and her team.
SDM: So you’ve got 2 people.
SS: No! Ten! And it took me 2 months and 3 meetings with the head of sales to have her set up this meeting.
SDM: But there are only 2 members of the Buying Decision Team who will be present. Who else would need to be on the Buying Decision Team?
SS: Well, the head of technology, obviously, but he’s on board. He loves our solution. Besides, he’s only an influencer.
SDM: So if he doesn’t want a CRM system, the company will ignore him?
SS: No. They wouldn’t buy. I guess that makes him a decision maker.
SDM: And there won’t be a problem with him working together with the heads of sales and marketing? They have no relationship issues?
SS: Oh. I guess I wouldn’t want to be there while they decided on stuff together. Hm. Who else do they have to get on their Buying Decision Team?
SDM: Not only do you not know, but they don’t know yet either. Let’s start with users. There must be user groups with 15oo sales people.
SS: There are 6 user groups. I guess we’d need their buy in.
SDM: I’m curious about the tech group. Your solution has a complicated implementation process and takes quite a bit of collaboration with the in-house folks. Does the tech team know they will need to free up folks for the implementation? Or are they going to outsource all of this? Or some combination?
SS: I have no way of knowing that.
SDM: That’s correct. And neither do they. And until they figure that out, they cannot buy your solution. In fact, until they have the entire Buying Decision Team on board, they can’t buy. There are too many people who need to have a voice, too many unknown decisions to make, too many buying and implementation criteria to take into account. And you can’t understand any of this – or be directly involved in doing it for the prospect. But you can lead them through their decisions so they have a path to follow. Otherwise you can wait until they figure it out themselves.
SS: So this meeting tomorrow is too early, with too few of the Buying Decision Team members, and giving them a big presentation right now is wasting my time and theirs because we don’t have all of the right people and they don’t have all of their buying criteria. This is why my sales take years to close. What do I do tomorrow? I bet you’re going to tell me not to make a presentation.
SDM: Let’s put together a list of Facilitative Questions that will help them figure out how to manage all of the issues we just discussed. And, at the end, if they still want a bit of your presentation, it’s fine. So long as you understand that their needs might change once all of the Buying Decision Team members have a say in the outcome. Obviously the tech folks will have different purchasing criteria than the sales folks, and the users won’t want anything new. And now, no one knows any of this.
Until or unless all of the members of the Buying Decision Team are on board, the buyer can not know their full set of buying criteria – or even the full definition of their need. When sellers go in and first attempt to ‘understand need’ or even ‘know who is on the Buying Decision Team [useless data as an outsider is not an influencer on the Team]‘ or offer solution data, they are wasting a lot of time and delaying the buying decision.
Facilitate buy-in, manage change, and help gather the correct Buying Decision Team members first. Then help them all figure out their buying, buy-in, and change criteria. And THEN you can focus on the need and your solution. And close a lot more sales a whole lot faster.
Sharon-Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.
More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.