The buy-cycle begins with one person with an idea – a recognition that things could be better. Whether from a discussion with a salesperson, idea from an article, or just the exasperation of an every-day issue, one person starts the journey toward a purchase – and meanders, falters, through all of the change management issues that litter the way toward a new solution.
This one person starts with with no buy-in and no buddies, and cannot initially know the full description of the problem/need or ramifications of the possible change. And certainly will not have the complete descriptors with which to choose a solution until much later in the cycle when all appropriate voices are brought in and the change management issues are recognized by everyone who will touch the final solution.
Before that person gets from here to there, there are many steps along the way, starting with putting together some personal thoughts through research, through discussions, to private think time. Then come a few friends and colleagues who lend a brain and an ear – friends who also want Excellence and are willing to put in time, put their jobs on the line, and be willing to stand up to resistance and the status quo to get something new brought into the environment.
That’s where the buy-cycle starts. There are actually 13 unique steps from the first thought to a purchase.
STARTING SALES TOO EARLY
Sellers show up early in the cycle, discussing needs, money, value and ‘deep understanding’ – the buyer’s last 2 steps. But the early portion of the journey – the 11 behind-the-scenes, private, idiosyncratic, and highly personal steps that buyers and their Buying Decision Teams must take along their path to purchase – is not handled by sales.
There is so much more we can do to help buyers maneuver from the first idea through their decision path.
Are we willing to add new skills, new technology, to what we’re doing now, both in marketing automation, inside sales, outside sales, telemarketing, and nurture marketing? Are we willing to add new skills that are not sales skills, nor influencing skills, nor negotiating skills? Are we willing to help manage the change? If we aren’t willing, we will continue to close a fraction of what we can be closing as we sit and wait to close the low hanging fruit.
All sales activities – marketing automation included – are needs assessment/solution placement focused. The underlying belief is that once we understand the buyer’s needs, or know their friends, or play golf with them, or network with them, or know who the decision makers are, we will know what, when, how, if to place a solution.
Yet only 7% of buyers buy through normal sales channels, and less than 1% through marketing automation channels. And – here is the kicker – 80% of our prospects (whom we followed and called and contacted and nurtured) will buy our solution from a different vendor within 2 years of speaking with us.
In other words, even though there is a need, and it appears that our solution matches, something is stopping the buy-cycle.
WHAT IS A BUY-CYCLE
A buy-cycle is an entire set of change management and buy-in issues that buyers must manage internally, behind-the-scenes, to get agreement from people and policies in order to make a purchase.
The buy-cycle starts with an idea, and ends when the entire Buying Decision Team is on board (no mean feat) and everything that will touch a new solution knows how to manage the change that the new thing will create.
The buy-cycle is 90% complete by the time the buyer is considering one solution over another. Until then, buyers must get all of the right people to agree (hah), make sure technology will not crash, ensure people can work together, change job descriptions, bring in outsourced folks to help with implementations, ensure the new works with the old….
The buy-cycle does not start with a seller understanding needs and matching a solution. That’s the last thing that happens. Note: the fact that a seller can recognize a need means it has been there for a while … and nothing has been done about it. So the system it lives in is willing to maintain the problem.
Here are a few thoughts that are important to remember:
- If the buyer needed to fix their problem they would have done so already.
- The time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers and figure out their internal change management issues is the length of the sales cycle, independent of their need.
- A seller (the outsider) will never, ever, ever ‘understand’ the political, relational, personal, or historic issues that buyers must manage. It’s necessary to understand the full need, however, and that can occur once the entire Buying Decision Team is in place.
- Information does not teach a buyer how to buy. They must manage their internal, off-line, systems issues.
- The system is sacrosanct: buyers will maintain the integrity of their system at all costs, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.
- Something new threatens the integrity of the existing system.
If you are selling technology, the buy-cycle must include buy-in from whoever will use it, plus a set up for the change implementation, plus a relationship with outsourcing groups, plus a way to ensure the new will meld with the old, plus some sort of project leading component.
If you are selling training, the buy-cycle will include buy-in from those who will take the training, internal trainers, matching the new program with the existing material, change of materials/software to match the new skills, plus buy-in from, and a working relationship with, the internal training department with a knowledge of maintaining the new learning over time.
For small, inexpensive solutions, possibly one person has to discover how the new solution would disrupt the system and figure out how to re-arrange, or shift technology, etc.
The buy-cycle is not about our solution. It’s about the buyer making sure that at each step there is agreement and change management and buy-in to ensure all of the right people are on board and willing to allow an addition to the status quo. The reason we lose sales is not because of our solution, but because the Buying Decision Team hasn’t figured out how to bring in change without disruption.
Ask yourself this, and answer honestly: do you really, really want to begin selling at the beginning of the buy-cycle? I can teach you the skills and give you the technology for this to happen. But you’d have to add something to what you’re doing – i.e. change.
How would you recognize, upfront, who would need to be included in a decision to change? How would you know that Buying Facilitation® will give you the results you deserve BEFORE you begin the change? What would you need to do differently to get the buy-in you’d need?
I can help. I can offer you Facilitative Questions to share with teammates to help them decide. Or you can listen to podcasts and watch webinars that I gave to explain Buying Facilitation®.
For those of you who recognize a problem, and want help navigating through the entire change management journey to get buy-in to add new skills to your sales and marketing, contact me. I can help you walk through the entire route with a minimum of disruption.
I just need to speak with one person with a hope for something better.