Sales folks think that because the buyer's need matches our solution, and because we're professionals who ‘care,' the only thing buyers need to do is choose our solution.
If only it were that easy; we'd be closing a lot more sales, and certainly not lose as many sales as we do. The problem is that the buying decision is so, so much more complex than we can imagine as we approach a prospect to place our solution.
For some reason, sales historically treats an Identified Problem (my word for ‘need') as if it were an isolated event. But it's not. It's a Change Management issue, and the ramifications to any buying decision are ones only buyers can see from the inside and we will never be privy to.
WHEN DO BUYERS START FIGURING OUT STUFF?
Unfortunately for us, buyers don't start figuring out their behind-the-scenes issues until after we've met them, except in cases when buyers call us and buy: when that happens it's because they've made all of the behind-the-scenes buying decisions before they contacted us and we just got lucky.
Because we are focused on placing solution, we end up coming in at the wrong time, pitching a solution to a small portion of the ultimate Buying Decision Team, and have no tools to help buyers manage all of the off-line buying decisions that need to happen for them to get buy-in for change.
As sellers we are never taught that the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. Before they can buy anything, they first look into and manage historic decisions, rules, old/new vendor issues, departmental politics, etc, and do a thorough, internal check on resources to ensure they can't figure out a work-around for the problem.
WHAT IS BEHIND THE SCENES?
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. And, the system of rules and people and policies have allowed it to remain as it is - or they would have changed it already. So the system not only has created the problem, it maintains it daily, and us having a great resolution is not something they need to consider first.
Before a buyer will buy or choose any solution at all, they must first figure out and manage the very idiosyncratic and mysterious ramifications of whatever issues a purchase decision will create internally. After all, it is change. What will a solution change internally? How will the people and policies interact differently if/when they decide to resolve an Identified Problem and bring in something… something different that isn't already there? Obviously, the sales model doesn't equip us with the tools to help buyers manage these issues, and we cannot do it for them.
And no solution will be purchased if there is any possibility that the client can resolve their problem on their own.
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 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. And, 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 being true servant leaders, true trusted advisors and relationship managers, and guide them through their systemic, off-line, buying decision issues. But it's not sales. In this time of economic uncertainty, add Buying Facilitation® and differentiate from your competition - and truly help your buyer buy. And, stop selling.
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