The Difference Between Selling and Having Someone Buy

Updated: October 20, 2009

Sales treats a ‘need' as if it were an isolated event. But it's not. The buyer's ‘need' is merely an external result of historic, internal decisions, and only buyers can figure out how to manage these issues or make a change if there is a problem. Unfortunately, this all takes place behind-the-scenes and sellers will never be privy to what's going on. But unless the buyer does, they won't buy, no matter how critical their need.

Let's start with this question: How did a buyer's ‘need' get there? It didn't arise overnight, and people and policies inside agreed to allow it to happen. So the ‘need' got created behind-the-scenes, has amassed people and policies and untold work-arounds that become part of the normal operations and are in place when we meet our prospects.

Not only that, the system and rules and people and policies have allowed it to remain as it is - or they would have changed it already. But they didn't. Therefore, the Identified Problem that we try to sell into may not be a problem for the buyer, and there are already a system of work-arounds that maintain it daily.

Thus, before buyers can buy anything they must first consider if they really want to change. They must have answers to these questions:

  • What will a solution change internally?
  • Who must buy-in to change, and how will their groups/teams work differently with something new?
  • How will the work-arounds be managed?
  • How will the people and policies interact differently if/when they decide to bring in something different?
  • What will the fallout be, and how can it be mitigated?

Then they have to garner the buy-in to even consider moving forward to figure out the very idiosyncratic and mysterious ramifications that any change will create.

Their first job is to begin looking into their status quo(current teams, partners groups, rules, historic decisions) for a resolution. It is only when they cannot fix the problem themselves that they will consider an external solution.


Buyers don't start figuring out their behind-the-scenes issues (as per above) until after we've met them, except in cases when buyers call us and buy… in which case they've made these decisions before they contacted us and we are just lucky. The time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. And they don't start with seeking a solution.

Obviously, the sales model doesn't equip us with the tools to help buyers manage these issues, and we cannot do it for them. So the sales model has a different focus, different skill sets, and different outcomes, than the buyer's internal, off-line decision issues. And sales doesn't manage this.

In fact, sellers gathers info and pitches a solution to a small portion of the ultimate Buying Decision Team, with have no tools to help buyers do what they must do before they can manage the off-line, behind-the-scenes decisions that need to be made for them to get buy-in for change.

As we think about sales, and wonder how to close more sales, quicker, we must realize that by merely focusing on the solution-placement area, and we do our 'understanding' - understanding need, understanding the decision making, understanding the requirements, helping buyers understand our the judiciousness of our offering - we are not helping the buyer do the behind-the-scenes work they must accomplish before making a buying decision. That work is private, idiosyncratic, personal, unique, and not open to outsiders.

There are two distinct skill sets: the buying decision and the sales model.

Unfortunately, buyers don't know how to do this work easily because it's new to them. But we can help - with a different set of skills.

We can help them by first being a GPS system to the decision issues, and once they've ‘arrived' at their destination, then using sales skills. It's a wholly different skill set that is not engaged in placing a solution, but truly focused on guiding decisions from outside.

Just as a GPS system is not familiar with the potholes or the scenery, and just dispassionately delivers the coordinates, we must enter as guides - neutral navigators if you will - to help buyers figure out how to manager the off-line, private, internal issues that must be addressed before they consider bringing in a new solution. And once they have all of their answers, once they know who needs to be involved, how to manage the tech team and other departments, once they know what to do with their other vendors, then they will know how to buy.

And if we've been doing our Buying Facilitation® jobs well, we'll be on the Buying Decision Team and they will choose us, in a fraction of the normal time.

We will then be decision facilitators, true servant leaders, true trusted advisors and relationship managers, and guide them through their systemic, off-line, buying decision issues.

In this time of economic uncertainty, add Buying Facilitation® and differentiate from your competition - and truly help your buyer buy. And, stop selling.

The question is: Would you rather sell? Or have someone buy?

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