Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. In sales and marketing, we’ve focused on the sell side. In October, Pat Spenner of CEB wrote an article in Forbes titled: You’re Doing it Wrong: Demand Generation. This is the first time I’m aware of that a mainstream publication has noticed that the problem – applicable to both sales and marketing – is on the consensus management, or ‘buy-in’ side. I’m delighted I’m no longer the lone voice discussing or resolving the problem.
Since the inception of sales and marketing we’ve believed that some sort of information utilization – getting the right information at the right time to the right people, discovering a need or a probable demographic, managing objections, getting appointments, having great ads and sites – will lead to a sale. But we’re only closing the low-hanging fruit. – approximately 7% fromfirst call (although some like to fudge a bit and count from connections and proclaim they close 20%). The rest clearly need us. Why aren’t they buying?
A BUYER’S DECISION PATH IS SYSTEMS BASED, NOT SOLUTION FOCUSED
Unfortunately, 90% of the buying decision path – a confusing journey fraught with unresolved people, management, and strategic obstacles – occurs outside our purview, withouthelp from us, and not based on our solution. Indeed, buying a solution – the final 10% of the decision path – isn’t relevant at all unless buyers get the requisite consensus and personal buy-in from all whose jobs will be involved with any resultant change.
Spenner calls the buyer’s consensus issues ‘dysfunction’. I disagree. Because a buying decision is a systems change issue, not a solution choice issue, buyers must first address their rules, roles, people, money, and management issues before they can buy. And, as sellers and marketers who exist outside the system, it may seem like dysfunction to us because we recognize a need/solutions match they seem to be ignoring.
But they may not be ignoring their needs or our solution; they just might be dealing with the steps they must take to enable efficient change (There are actually 13 steps buyers must take, from idea to purchase, and our solution orientation enters at step 10.). Remember we learned as kids that a system is homeostatic, and will resist if something from the outside attempts to get in or change it? It’s impossible to take one piece out and put something else in without garnering resistance. So we’re pushing information and solutions at the wrong time and in the wrong place and probably creating the resistance we’re getting.
Imagine announcing to your spouse you just bought a great house on the way home and you want the family to move next week. Or a CEO who decides on her own to buy new software for her 1000 person company and announces to the tech folks, users, marketing folks, and accounting group that there will be an implementation next week. It’s not about the house, the software or the need; there is no buy-in, no consensus, no reorganization, no change management.
It’s hard for us to grasp that, like all systems we are not a member of, a buyer’s system (separate from what we perceive is a need) is outside of our purview. We will never understand the fallout from past implementations or how techies and user groups must adjust personally and professionally to a new implementation. Can sales and marketing share budget without killing each other? Does the gym membership make sense to a 400 pound man who does not see himself as overweight?
Only the insiders can address these personal issues and, until they do, buyers cannot buy regardless of the efficacy of our solution. It’s a systems problem – not a sign of dysfunction but a sign of a healthy system that will not compromise the functionality of their culture. And the time it takes for all the right elements to buy-in is the length of the sales cycle; we are not respecting our buyers enough to realize they would have fixed the problem already if their system were ready, willing, and able to change.
A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM
In today’s internet information-laden environment, buyers now show up only when they’ve done the first 90% without us, causing us to focus more and more on the very last thing they need, giving us less opportunity to enter earlier and creating more competition and price issues. But we’d have a real competitive advantage if we could use both sales and marketing capability to be the neutral navigators guiding them through their behind-the-scenes issues.
I’ve developed a Buying Facilitation® model that does just that – enabling the non-solution-based decision along each step of the journey. For 26 years I’ve been teaching sellers in global corporations in B2B and B2C how to facilitate consensus, assemble the appropriate Buying Decision Team, and change without disruption. Marketing can enter at any place along the path; selling is used once they are ready for a purchase. So Buying Facilitation® + Marketing then Sales. And then the competition is vastly diminished as the seller and solution have been built into the consensus.
My clients get very different results than using sales alone. On average, over decades, industries, and price points, against control groups using just the sales model alone we’ve gotten, on average, 600% increase over sales. It seems large, but it’s not an equal comparison since the sales model alone would not close 40% of prospects fromfirst call (control groups of sellers using the same lists get a 7% close on average depending on the industry).
Let’s use our marketing and sales models to better effect in this environment. Let’s help buyers buy. Then we can sell.