Sales, marketing, and social marketing attempt to place solutions and create relationships by supplying great content, discovering likely prospects, and creating trust. Unfortunately sellers end up closing a small fraction – less than 5% – of those they reach, and marketers and social end up wasting a lot of time and don’t often meet their goals. What’s causing our failure? And is there one solution that can enhance all?
PROBLEMS WITH OUR CURRENT THINKING
Here’s a bit of flawed thinking that exacerbates the problems:
- Sellers believe prospects are folks who SHOULD buy rather than those who WILL buy. It’s possible to know very early if the prospect CAN buy;
- Marketers believe that content is king, that offering the right content at the right time enables a buying decision. But we don’t know the role the reader plays on the Buying Decision Team, how or when the content is being used, and if it’s making a difference in the buying decision (i.e. it might be just a resource);
- Social believes that by engaging in relationships over time and developing trust, followers will come back when they are ready. But because we can’t know their decision path, or associates who need to buy-in to any change, or internal political issues, we can’t know if we are spending time wisely.
We can facilitate the buying decision and create more success with followers by employing different thinking to save us from
1. Merely guessing at, or manipulating, our results without knowing our true outcomes;
2. Wasting time assuming if we play nice or offer good content people will buy or take action;
3. Neglecting actions we can take to facilitate the decision steps buyers and followers take before they are ready to make a choice.
Let’s look at some new thinking to add to what we’re successfully doing.
WHAT I LEARNED IN THE TRENCHES
We overlook the myriad of things that buyers and followers must contend with outside of the purview of the solution, need, or relationship:
- People have complicated issues to handle before they can buy or change;
- Figuring out the full complement of people to include in any purchase or change decision is complex. Each participant brings their unique criteria into the mix;
- Given politics, internal relationship issues, history and future, it’s challenging to get buy-in from everyone involved with the final solution, yet the buy-in is necessary to ensure the status quo doesn’t implode with a new purchase or change.
I learned this as both a sales person and an entrepreneur. When Merrill Lynch hired me a stockbroker in the 1970s, I became a million-dollar producer my first year. But I couldn’t figure out why everyone with a need (especially those I had a great relationship with) didn’t buy. Where did they go?
When I started up my tech company in London in the 80s I realized the problem: as a buyer, my direct needs were often superseded by the social, political, organizational, and relational considerations I had to manage. When sellers came to pitch they understood my need and gave fine pitches but had no way to handle the fights I was having with the Board, or the issues the distributor was having with my solutions. Nor did anyone even try.
The sales model, I realized, was not designed facilitate the behind-the-scenes non-need-related issues I had to manage before I could consider buying anything. I then developed Buying Facilitation® to add to the front end of the sales model. My own sales team used it as a front-end to our sales process by first navigating buyers through their change management issues – buyers must do that anyway so we facilitated the stages and steps instead of sitting and waiting for the time it took them to figure it out on their own. That way we got onto the Buying Decision Team early and became great relationship managers. Our sales tripled and the time to close was reduced by two thirds.
The takeaway here for marketers and social is the recognition that we are largely ignoring the hidden, systemic issues going on that are not available to outsiders yet fundamental for any change to happen. That is our Achilles Heel.
WHAT’S THE ROLE OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT?
Buyers and followers don’t know their journey to change when they begin and hence take longer than necessary. But we can help them, and make our value proposition our ability to be their GPS.
There are two elements of the Buying Facilitation® model that can be added to create a ‘pull’ that’s change- and decision-focused.
1. Listen for systems: instead of coding, noticing, tracking details that will help us guess at who’s reading, who’s a decision maker, where they might be in their sales cycle, etc. let’s begin listening for, and designing, tools to facilitate the movement along the decision path that change decisions goes through; let’s ensure the right people are all involved (some not so obvious) and address consensus-building. Currently we now listen for what we want to hear rather than listening for issues with decision making, change or choice.
2. Use Facilitative Questions: instead of waiting until they do this on their own, Facilitative Questions guide people through their buy-in and change management issues (necessary for both small purchases and large solutions) and facilitate the trajectory through their steps. Facilitative Questions are a type of criteria-recognition and choice format I developed.
It’s possible to develop assessments, questionnaires, intelligent contact sheets, CRM tools that provide the capability to lead buyers and followers through the steps they must take, send out just the appropriate data at the right point in the cycle, and facilitate the consensus and buy-in as they ready themselves for change. We can add these to the sales, marketing, and social models to truly serve our buyers and followers and close more. It will be an addition, and the results will stronger relationships and more conversions.
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 atsharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.