Why is a 90% failure rate ok?

Updated: June 15, 2009

As I'm doing the final rewrites on my new book out August/September, The Dirty Little Secret: why buyers can't buy and sellers can't sell and what to do about it, I realized how many times I've mentioned my frustration with the failure of the sales model: it actually builds in a 90% failure rate and we expect that! We hire 10X more sales people to get the results we seek, we get 50% longer sales cycles than we could be having, we face objections because people are responding to the sales model itself, we lose clients we shouldn't lose.

What a waste - not only for sellers, but for buyers.

This doesn't need to happen. Sales is just an incomplete model that we've accepted as the way to place our products. It works only at the product decision end of the equation (vs. Buying Facilitation, my model that manages the buying decision end of the equation), with no ability to guide buyers through their tangle of stuff' that needs to get figured out before they can make a buying decision. It's where prospects go when they say, "I'll call you back." They have to make sure all of the people and policies that touch the Identified Problem are in agreement, that old vendor issues and relationships are handled, that historic problems are managed. Unfortunately for us, sales doesn't help with this aspect of the seller-buyer equation and buyers need to do this on their own.

Unfortunately for them, buyers don't initially know the route through all of their decisions either. And we meet them far too early in their decision process, leaving us waiting to close and not knowing what's going on. After all, their need and our solution seem to be a match - but it takes so long for them to decide! What is the problem!

So we sit and wait. And 90% of the prospects don't come back. Not because our product isn't good, or because our solution doesn't match their need. It's because their internal issues haven't been resolved, and buyers won't buy until they are. They can't: they must maintain the integrity of their environment even if it means they don't resolve their need.

Sales doesn't offer us the tools to help guide them through the route to all of those decisions: it's certainly difficult for sellers to understand the buyer's buy-in issues, management decisions, technology factors. But it's quite possible to have an understanding of the decision making process - the route that buyers must make through their unique decision criteria - and recalibrate our jobs to be not only solution providers, but neutral navigators - Buying Facilitators if you will - much like a buddy to a sight-impaired friend who knows where they want to go but doesn't know the exact route to get there.

By focusing on the buying decision end of the equation, sales can be closed in months rather than years, weeks rather than months, and sellers can stop wasting so much of their time. And failing so often. Imagine if doctors or baseball players had the same failure rate!

Imagine if we could lead buyers through all of their unconscious decision criteria, help them discover who needs to buy-in to a new solution, and help them build our product into their solution design. Imagine.

Read the first chapter of The Dirty Little Secret: why buyers can't buy and sellers can't sell and what to do about it.

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