Customers attending any industry conference, trade show, networking event or even a sales presentation are often wise to arrive in battle armor. Sales people seem to have become increasingly aggressive about their approaches. It is as if the collateral damage they leave in their wake is inconsequential because they have been told that sales is a “numbers game.” Call on enough people, talk to sufficient numbers, attempt to close enough sales and the business will take care of itself.
Salespeople listen closely – nothing can be further from the truth. Doing things incorrectly and faster just means you fail more spectacularly and quicker.
What often happens is that a person tasked with selling a product forgets that for them to succeed, another person has to decide to make a purchase or buy. Sales Managers and business owners refer to a “sales cycle.” The assumption is that the selling organization can somehow control the timing and progress of the decisions being made by the buyer.
The reality is that the buyer makes the decisions, ALL of them. The selling organization’s representative can only aid and try to provide the buyer with the information, demonstrations, testimonials, etc. required to bridge the gap between a buyer’s current situation and a future situation that includes the selling organization’s products and/or services.
However, the seller will try to arm-twist, cajole, or persuade a buyer that they really need the product they are hoping to sell and will launch into a detailed discussion about the features, technical specifications, and warranties that their product offers that are improvements over their competitors. However, missing in the discussion is the Buyer and his/her needs, how they make decisions, what their requirements are for making purchases from vendors or suppliers. Instead, the seller engages in a dance designed to limit choices, reduce decision-making to forced options, and narrow down criteria for the purchase to their own preferences. And, in so doing that – they actually CREATE problems for themselves and grind the forward progress of the process to a halt.
Now, objections are raised, complaints are formulated, and doubts emerge. Conflict that would not otherwise be raised becomes a part of the process BECAUSE the seller neglected to understand how buyers move through the process of making a purchase.
The BUYING Process
A good summary of the process buyers use to make decisions to purchase is covered in the recent book authored by Kevin Davis, ”Slow Down, Sell Faster!: Understand Your Customer’s Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales” (Amacom; January 2011). Some of the highlights of the process are captured in an article that appeared in the website, Eyes on Sales (www.eyesonsales.com).
According to Davis, the seller needs to align their presentation with the buyer’s needs. For example:
- Don’t focus on what the seller wants to accomplish, but what the buyer’s needs are, how their business can be improved, or issues that can be addressed that require a change.
- Mirror the presentaton of material to align to the stage or step of the sales process (selling features when the buyer is still seeking to clarify their issues and identify the potential solutions). Features become relevant ONCE the buyer is in a comparison mode between options. Introducing them sooner without discussing the business issue to be addressed become confusing and lead to objections.
- In fact, by using features too early, it serves to REDUCE the need to talk with you (the buyer has the information they need and has formed an opinion of what your company can do – often incorrectly, because the seller has not fully demonstrated the breadth and depth of the company’s ability to help prospect’s scope their needs.
- Have a chance to fully understand the business issues (from the buyer’s perspective, not your own), identify other departments, functions, etc. impacted, and what has been tried previously to address it (if anything).
- Quantify the value of the business issue being solved (NOT the cost of the product or service) through the use of a solution provided by the selling organization.
In the final analysis, Davis suggests, “”Focus on differentiating how you sell, build more trust by slowing down your sales process. When you do that, you can speed up your customer’s buying process. And that’s why when you sell slower your customer buys faster!”
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