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Sales Solutions
Are You Selling How Your Customers Are Buying? vol 7, issue #8
August, 2010

Most of you are probably wondering how I could have made such a glaring error in the title of this month's Tip.  "Surely he must have meant, 'Are You Selling What Your Customers Are Buying?'"

I assure you, it was no error.

 

 

You're all familiar with the idea of a sales cycle (you'd better be, if you've been reading this newsletter for any period of time!).  It goes something like this:  Research, Approach (Prospect), Qualify, Present, Handle Objections, Negotiate, and Close.  And none of us would argue that this process doesn't make sense to follow.  But think for a moment - does you customer give a hoot about your process?  Does he even know you have one?  Probably not.  But the fact is, just as we sellers have a sales cycle that provides a structured, orderly, repeatable way to move opportunities to closure, most organizations have a buying cycle that provides a structured, orderly, repeatable way to select a vendor among several alternatives. And while buyers may not care what our selling process is, you most definitely had better care about - and understand - what your customers' processes are.  If you don't, you run the risk of being out of synch with them, which could have adverse consequences for you.  For example, you send a proposal before the prospect is ready to evaluate one, making you look too eager, or try to close while they're still evaluating alternatives, making you look desperate, or worse, still selling them on your solution when they've already decided in their minds to buy from you, possibly talking yourself out of a deal you'd already won.

 

 

Here's what a typical prospect buying cycle might look like:

 

  • A need is identified by someone in the organization for a product or service that helps him or her achieve a desired outcome - solving a problem or reaching a goal. 

 

  • Research is conducted to determine what solutions are out there, and who provides them. 

 

  • A short list of solution providers is derived, and each is contacted

 

  • A team is assembled - often cross-functional - to participate in vendor evaluations. 

 

  • Initial meetings take place with the team lead, after which the list of vendors may get whittled down 

 

  • Formal presentations are given by each vendor

 

  • The team huddles together to select a winner 

  • The winner is notified that they're preferred, contracts are reviewed, and negotiations begin 

 

  • References are checked 

 

  • Contract is signed

 

  • If the prospect is a stand-up organization, they notify the losing vendors

 

 

 

Knowing how an organization buys helps you plan your strategy for that account and gives you insights into how you add value.  This has the important advantage of positioning yourself as a customer-focused business consultant, rather than a self-focused sales person, increasing the likelihood that you get selected.  Buying in the corporate world is as much about minimizing the risk of making a bad decision (CYA) as it is about finding the "best" solution.  Each of the individuals - be they influencers, decision-makers, purchasing people, technical people, or users - will bring his or her own agenda, concerns, business and personal aspirations, motivation, personality, and buying style.  To the extent you can uncover these for each person, you'll know how to sell to them, which will give you a huge leg up on your competitors.  For example, if you determine that I am an ambitious guy with a big ego, and that one of my goals with this project is to make a big splash for myself so I can secure my position as the lead choice for an upcoming promotion, you'll sell me much differently from how you'd sell me if I were a department manager who's worried about having his staff ability to learn and use a new and unfamiliar product or service, and the fallout that will hit him if word gets out that they can't.

 

 

ACTION ITEM

 

Take a deal you're currently working on.  Write down the names of all the people you know are involved in determining whether your company will get the business.  Then ask yourself, "Is this person sold yet?  If not, do I know what will sell him or her?  If the answer to these two questions is "no", you have some work to do.  For deals that are at their beginning, adapt the buying process outlined above to your particular situation, and think about what value-add things you can do at each stage.  Then do them. You're sure to see your share of wins in competitive deals go up, as you're now working both sides of your deals - the sales side, and the buying side.



Good selling!


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