Buyers say they don’t want you there. But they are lying.

You’re a salesman, right? Surely you’ve heard it. Companies are doing their buying process themselves, without connecting to you. To know they are in a purchase process, you have call them; they never call you. But if you call, they don’t answer or get hung up.

And if you’re not in their loop, then you lose. Maybe, it doesn’t matter, since you always can win back. Anyhow, they increasingly regret their buying decisions.

Or, you may consider they’re all lying when they say they don’t need you.

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According to new research, companies describe their complex-solutions purchase process as “hard”, “awful”, “painful”, “frustrating” or “minefield”. If they really describe their own selected purchase process in that manner, why do they decide not to involve you?

I think the reasons mainly are two:

  1. Companies believe they can manage a complex purchase themselves
  2. They think salesmen are too pushy

When companies think they are able to manage their purchase process themselves, they may think of the fact they have all information to make their decision. And certainly, they have. All information available on earth.

How efficient is that on a scale? The oceans of information make decisions almost impossible in first place. How to extract the right pieces of relevant information? How will they accomplish that? Maybe they perform another search on the internet, turn to their business and personal friends or industry colleagues for advice? That’s true.

According to the research, they increasingly involve more people to make their decisions. Two years ago, they involved 5.4 people to make a decision, but today 6.8. That’s more than two additional people!

Besides the cost to involve more people when decision-making, the time table for the final decision stretches a lot. According to the research, 65% of customers tell that they spent as much time as they’d expected to need for the entire purchase just getting ready to speak with a salesman. Isn’t that a waste of time, then?

Companies would be a lot more efficient making decisions with the expertise you as a salesman possess. So why do they not like to connect?

Then we come into #2. They think of salesmen as aggressive and too pushy, I believe. And I agree with that. After too many cold calls to me, trying to sell any- or something not relevant, I’ve decided just to hang up when a salesman call. Every now and then I let them answer my first objection: “What are you trying to sell to me?” before I’m clicking the red phone symbol. Because very few of them show any skill whatsoever being relevant to me, even if they do their pitch excellent.

What you should be aggressive about, is to find the potential customers’ need and pain. Do exactly as they do – use the net, social media, friends, colleagues  and so on to really find what pains people are talking about. Don’t look for “hot” solutions – search for dire pains.

The pains are real stuff. They cost money. They impact margins and make competition harder. They affect growth plans. They let management heads roll. They are the mothers of multiple layoffs. They shut factories down.

That’s really painful. So look for full pains. No little. Because with no huge and awful pains, there will be no awesome solutions to sell.

The great thing is, that you are the skilled expert of such pains. If you are able to transform yourself from a seller to a helper, you will be the decision-makers’ best friend.

Because you answer when they call, you are the expert to talk to on social media. You addresses the pains to defined problems. You understand them and connect them to real solvers of exactly that problem and finally suggest solutions that enable the elimination of the pains.

So the truth is that companies still need you. But don’t get upset when they are lying they don’t.

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The hidden time slot when buying decisions are made

We all make decisions. Everyday we decide things that have an impact on our lives. Some of those decisions are buying decisions, where you interact with companies that possibly may fulfill a need you have.

Many of you recognize that a major share of the sales process has disappeared. In my post The Death of the Cold Call I visualized the three earliest phases of the sales process being invisible from the sales rep’s perspective, leaving us sales people only with two more phases to work with.

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That’s terrifying enough. Of course you can manage the first three phases, but in a totally different way and requiring entirely new set of skills and methods. There are some really experienced advisors out there to help – one of my favorites is Barbara Giamanco – visit her blog for great tips!

But even more scaring is that I noticed a glitch also between the two remaining phases – causing you losing control in that very moment you definitely don’t want to.

hidden-time-slotI call it “The Hidden Time Slot”, because it’s hidden to you and leaving customer to do his choice without your presence. The Glitch happens when you have had your sales meeting – you felt is was successful – and you did all things right. You asked all the questions; about their needs, the price level, the timings and you even got the customer giving you the list of your competitors. You are sure it was the decision maker you talked to and he also gave you a date for his buying decision and committed to get in touch by then.

I’m just asking; are there more of you out there in the sales arena, except me, with experience losing such deals? I believe so, when I’m talking to my friends in sales. The sky was clear, no clouds in sight, and you still lost that damn deal!

Let’s go into the psychology in this by giving you an example from the buyer’s side. Me and my wife was looking for a new car. We thought about a slightly smaller car (children are leaving home), we needed hitch for trailer, GPS and we thought price was important, but not most. We visited several car dealers, as well as where we bought our existing car.

Our existing car dealer sales rep had a great advantage since we really liked our car and we thought it would be easy for us to just change to a smaller one at the same dealer. The existing car dealer was pretty sure about the same.

I can assure you. He did all things right, but he lost the deal anyhow. Why? What exactly was the reason for us to dismiss our easiest way forward?

It wasn’t a single reason we selected another car. It was a process.

Naturally, the existing car dealer asked about our alternatives – his competitors – and he was aware of their price levels. But it stopped there. What he didn’t do was trying to control beyond the buying process – where several other sales processes were running at decent pace, other than his. In my post Beyond The Buying Process I mentioned the key mindset to win large deals is to be your customer. Understanding your customer is simply not enough to be a winner in the modern sales arena.

When starting to evaluate what car we would buy, we also started new sales processes at several different car dealers. They were aware of they had to step up to win this deal, since they weren’t our existing dealer. They were prepared for a battle and they were curious about us. We were impressed how fast they got to learn us; and being friends.

Maybe you think our existing car dealer wasn’t polite or missed things, wasn’t curious or…whatever. He was. He did all things right. But he didn’t make the investigation about how we think about the other dealers. He didn’t rise to the 3rd Level of Sales:

To make the customer buy, the sales rep not only has to understand the customer, he has to BE and ACT as a customer in all contexts.

That’s Beyond The Buying Process. And The Glitch – The Hidden Slot – is only the last checkpoint when all buying thoughts from the entire buying process comes together in a decision.

 

BTW: Sorry for using the worn-out sales example: “Buying a new car”, but it was simply the most recent example where a bit more detailed evaluation was needed for make a good buying decision. //Stefan

 

Beyond The Buying Process

LinkedIn, what a great way of connecting to people! Just a few months ago I was just scanning my network and got one of those “say happy birthday congrats to..”. It was one of those old friends I haven’t spoke to for years. Actually, it was about fifteen years since we worked at the same company, the same sales department. I remember he was one of the sharpest brains I ever met before or until now. His name is Bert-Olov Bergstrand, always called BOB.

I said “congrats” to BOB and he instantly replied by picking up his phone and called me. One hour later we were convinced we would be doing business together in the near future. One memory of all, still extremely sharp in my brain, came to me and I typed a blog post about our method how to win very large complex sales deals – The Sales War Room.

One case BOB was leading was the win of a building supplies retail store chain, let’s just give them the alias “Building Supplies”.

We had to beg to be involved in the procurement of Building Supplies new ERP system. We came in as the last one of 28 potential vendors. We were not even in their conceptual world at all. Their procurement specification was extremely functional detailed and we were not allowed to talk to them before we submitted our proposal. All vendors submitted detailed answers with a lot nice words and names, but did Building Supplies really understand?

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Only 5 were invented to make a demo. But we were nominated to the final as number five!

After Building Supplies had spent time visiting four demos, they considered not to visit us – they said they’ve seen all possible solutions and it would be wasting time visiting us. Again, we had to beg them to come. And they did.

They started to shop their own items and goods in a building supplies retail store we built in our own office, just for this case. All our systems we aligned to their processes and their customers’ behavior and customer experience. Then we matched all their functional details to their own context; their own vocabulary.

After two hours they said we were the only ones that really understood their business. We didn’t only understand them, we WERE them.

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Of course we won the multi million USD deal.

To wrap up:

Level 1: Today no-one is really arguing not having a Sales Process to control a stepwise sales method. The mindset on this level is that the customer is buying aligned to the sales reps’ recommendation but not always understands what he buys.

Level 2: A few sales organizations are also accepting the fact there are a shift where the buyers are getting more power in their Buying Process. To sell on this level you have to understand your customer’s business and Buying Process

But what comes BEYOND THE BUYING PROCESS?

Level 3: To make the customer buy, the sales rep not only has to understand the customer, he has to BE and ACT as a customer in all contexts.

That’s Beyond The Buying Process.

BOB and I would be happy to uncover all secrets for your journey to this promised land where you win all complex and large deals. Stay tuned.