The steps of a buying decision differ from the steps of a sale. The sales model has no way to influence the private decisions and buy-in issues that buyers must address before they can buy.
Buyers live in a ‘system’ that maintains their Identified Problem (or ‘pain’) over time, creating work-arounds that become part of the system and, well, comfortable. Indeed, if the buyer really needed to make a change, they would have done so already. It’s only when a group of dedicated, internal change agents are willing to push the river, that a purchase is even considered.
Before buyers can buy, there must be buy-in to the proposed change, a plan that minimizes disruption, and a way to foster agreement between the people, policies and relationships that touch a new solution. A buying decision is far more complex than just fixing a problem.
I’ve developed Buying Facilitation® – a decision navigation model that is an add-on to sales and helps buyers bring together the right people and issues – to enable agreement and ensure change procedures are in place to make a purchase. Here are a few Buying Facilitation® skills to use with sales:
Help the gatekeeper discover who your best point of contact would be.
Don’t try to ‘get through’ the gatekeeper. She knows the best person to connect you with. And don’t attempt to ‘go to the top.’ The top person usually delegates to the appropriate people. Ask for the CEO’s assistant, and she’ll get you to the right people. Question: who is in control of the conversation – you? or the Gatekeeper?
Use Facilitative Questions to get into rapport and have buyers begin to examine how/if/why they would consider changing their status quo.
Until or unless prospects determine to make a change and get all appropriate folks on board to buy-in to change and ensure there is minimal disruption, it doesn’t matter whether
- you can see their need,
- your solution is perfect,
- they think they need you/your solution,
- they love your solution, price, personality, etc.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. Do you need to be working out more? It’s not about the gym.
Here is a Facilitative Question I use to start conversations: How would you know if it were time to add new sales skills to the ones you’re already offering your sales folks? This question helps them think about necessary steps and new choices they must consider.
Remember: discussing solutions and needs assessment are irrelevant at this early stage. Facilitative Questions help the BUYER see the whole picture of what is going on strategically and tactically. Until or unless they know how to manage their system first, they will take no action. This is where buyers go when you’re sitting and waiting.
Lead prospects/buyers through the systems issues they must consider in order to determine how any proposed change will disrupt their status quo.
Facilitative Questions and Presumptive Summaries are used to help buyers look at their status quo with an unbiased eye. No matter what their ‘need’ or ‘problem’ if they don’t think they can change in a way that maintains systems congruence, they will do nothing. Remember: the buyer’s environment/culture/system has lived with the Identified Problem until now, and can continue to do so. If they had known how to resolve it differently, they would have.
Facilitate prospect’s discovery of what sorts of strategic issues they must manage to get folks on board with potential change.
There are 3 levels of decisions necessary: systems, strategic, and tactical. Addressing them in this order is optimal although it’s usually an iterative process.
Lead prospects/buyers through tactical issues they must manage before they can choose a solution.
Once they determine that
- their system would be willing to shift to add something/change/resolve something,
- their rules, relationships, people, are willing to change,
- they know how to shift congruently to minimize disruption,
they will then be willing to bring in a new solution. Until or unless their status quo is reconfigured in a way that the insiders are willing to support, they will do nothing: the risk to their functioning is too high. Hence the longer-than-necessary sales cycle.
Buyers must do this with you or without you – so it might as well be with you.
Help the prospect choose the members of the Buying Decision Team.
Help buyers recognize the right people to include. Usually they don’t know who it will be until way down the road, much like you don’t know all the trials you’ll face before you start a move.
Discuss how your solution fits with the internal issues that they must manage.
This step is about melding your solution with the entire range of issues they have to manage internally, including the people, policies, and relationships.
Discuss/present your solution and show the prospect/buyer how it would fit with their need/problem.
Once they do all of the above and get appropriate buy-in to manage change, they will know how and when to buy, and you can discuss needs/solutions according to their buy-in issues.
Follow up to see if there is anything you can do to help the prospect/buyer decide to purchase.
This is part of a good sales job, of course.
SALES TACTICS THAT ARE NO LONGER NECESSARY
Make an appointment to get in front of the prospect
This is a hold-over from another era. Until buyers put together their decision team and figure out how to change without disruption, your bright shiny face and the efficacy of your solution is irrelevant. You can do all of the above without meeting a client. And then, when you get there, the entire Buying Decision Team will be there and you wouldn’t have wasted any time/visits.
Manage objections and differentiate yourself from the competition.
The sales model creates objections because it pushes data/solution info against a ‘closed system.’ When you hear an objection, it’s merely the system defending itself against change and nothing whatsoever about your solution. Once you teach the system how to manage buy-in without disruption, there are no objections.
80% of your prospects will buy within 2 years – but not from you. The time it takes them to manage the buying decision to ensure there will be no disruption is the length of the sales cycle. You can either sit and wait for them to do it, or you can learn Buying Facilitation® and become the GPS system to help them navigate. Would you rather sell? or help someone buy?
Wanting to learn more? Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what to do about it. Check out the site for more details.
Or consider purchasing the bundle: Dirty Little Secrets plus my last book Buying Facilitation®: the new way to sell that influences and expands decisions. In addition, you will also receive a bonus illustrated booklet.