Updated: October 12, 2009

It's not the economy. It's not you. It's not the need, nor your solution.

With new criteria necessary for funds to be allocated, buyers are going through decision crises. And because sales does not handle the private, behind-the-scenes issues buyers must manage internally prior to making a buying decision (you know, the ones that are politically motivated and economy-driven) buyers have no help navigating the mysteries of this risk-averse economy and are taking forever to figure it out. We lost sales before because we didn't get involved in the off-line decision issues. But now it's worse.

In this economy, with buyers bulking up their decision-making with more stakeholders to reduce the possibility of failure, they are saying ‘no' more often because they don't understand their full set of buying criteria and ‘no' is risk averse. We have no way to help them: We continue to ‘push' on the solution-placement end with no tools to assist them in discovering the issues they need to manage.

Unfortunately, the ability to help manage private decision criteria is outside the control of sales people. Let's consider this for a moment.

There are actually two major things a buyer must do prior to making a purchasing decision. Of course buyers must ultimately choose a supplier and a solution if they determine that using an external vendor is the preferred route. But first they must ensure that the appropriate people and departments buy-in before bringing in something new (i.e. a solution). And this idiosyncratic, off-the-cuff buying decision activity takes up 2/3 of the buyer's time before they buy.

Sales offers us no tool kit to help buyers manage the conversations that go on off-line, between departments, with old vendors, etc. And because it focuses on the very last thing buyers do - choosing a solution - and not the nitty-gritty historic and political issues that cause buyers to buy (or not), we are basically out of control.

Unfortunately, we cannot be a direct part of this process. We are not there: we are outsiders, the conversations happen between colleagues, and we are not a part of the buyer's team. Sure, we know how to be professionals, gather data, share product details, and understand needs. Yet the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers - not the ones we want them to have but answers based on the idiosyncratic needs of their people, policies, vendors, rules, history, etc. - is the length of the sales cycle.


Prospects aren't even entering the conversation in conventional ways. Not to mention that our typical closing rates are far, far too low.

The problem is not with the economy, with the buyer, with the seller, or even with the need or the solution. The problem is with the sales model itself: All buyers want is Excellence. And the buyer's off-line decision issues often have little to do with a need or our solution. In this economy, buyers must make sure the decisions they make now will address their criteria to ensure buy-in to change.

Sales acts as if understanding need and having a solution is all that needs to happen - it actually treats the ‘problem' as if it were an isolated event. Buyers eventually figure out on their own how to maneuver through their internal buy-in issues, but it takes quite a bit of trial and error - hence the over-long sales cycle and their often confusing journey toward Excellence.

Imagine if we adopted a new set of skills that actually worked WITH the buyer's Buying Decision Team to help them manage their own internal decision making. Not based on their need or our solution, but based on the management of their off-line elements. Not using sales techniques, but using decision facilitation techniques. Not about ‘understanding' but about leadership through change management.

To do that takes an additional skill set. Sales doesn't do this.

Are we ready to add new skills? Is it time to do something different? Is it worth the discomfort to add something new to our typical selling habits? And what's the cost if we don't?

What is stopping you from closing all of the sales you should be closing? Find out in my newest book,


Sharon Drew Morgen

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