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Change management and sales: influencing the buying decision path

Submitted by on Monday, 9 July 2018

Change ManagementBuyers want to solve a problem in a way that causes the least disruption; the last thing they want to do is bring in something new into their environment that will disrupt. But until the stakeholders (decision makers, influencers, appropriate managers) agree that making a purchase (rather than finding a workaround, using a familiar fix, or maintaining the status quo) is the only way to get where they want to end up, and all of the people that will touch the new solution buy-in to altering the status quo, they will not make a purchase or a change: they will continue the dysfunctional behavior even when an ideal solution is available.

While you might see your solution as offering a better alternative to what they are doing now, buyers have systemic issues to handle when they bring in something new. Making a purchase, or doing something different, means

  • some sort of change management to ensure that the new and the old work together,
  • helping folks who touch the current practices be willing and able to change,
  • understanding and diminishing any fallout that will ensue.

Bringing in something new into an existent system – whether it’s a purchase or an implementation – is a change management problem. And the sales model does not manage change. Indeed, selling doesn’t cause buying.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

Sales, marketing automation, and the new telemarketing field, ignore the change management aspect of what buyers must accomplish and instead focus on figuring out how and what and to whom to pitch and sell their solution. Let me back track a bit. Givens:

  1. sales manages the needs assessment and solution placement portion of the buyer’s decision.
  2. neither sales nor marketing are equiped to enter the environment/culture in which the buyer lives to help facilitate the systemic, non-solution-focused internal political or relational issues buyers must address to get the buy-in and make the adjustments to their culture that change demands .
  3. buyers don’t know their route through, or implications to, change when they begin to think about resolving a problem.
  4. the time it takes buyers to get the appropriate buy-in from all who will touch the solution is the length of the sales/change cycle. Until they figure this entire process out, they cannot buy. This is considered the pre-sales process.

These are the issues we come smack up against as sales folks: having spoken to only a fraction of the full Buying Decision Team, and having no way to know the political and personal discussions going on internally (and without us), we try to push a solution into a group that haven’t progressed through their entire change management path; we get objections and time delays as buyers figure it out. And we are so dedicated to finding ways to present our solution that we are blind to the buyer’s needs to first manage change. I often ask my own clients where their prospects are in their change path at the point they want to pitch. They have no idea; sales people don’t think about faciltiating change; the sales model as it is, is not equiped to facilitate the systemic change management issues that must be resolved in order for people to become buyers. It’s just far more complex than having a ‘need’ or a problem.

A SOLUTION CAN’T COMPROMISE THE STATUS QUO

Buyers have 13 steps they must take from first idea to making a purchase. It’s not until step 10 that they they actually become buyers, i.e. recognize they have a problem they can’t resolve with their own resources AND is worth fixing AND they have buy-in to buy something. Sales enters and manages steps 10-13. Steps 1-9 are the pre-sales process that focuses on change and determining if a purchase is necessary or a workaround is possible: assembling the right people, understanding the effects that solving a problem will produce, getting buy-in for a course of action – and then, determining if/what/why they want to buy. Unfortunately, as outsiders we can never understand what’s going on – nor do we need to. We just need to help them do it themselves. I have written an entire book to explain this problem: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.

When we enter too early with a solution-placement goal, we potentially speak to the wrong person/people, at the wrong time, using biased questions to gather data we use to sell with – and then we sit and wait. We are holding a hammer, waiting for the time when they are ready with a nail. But there is a much more efficient way to do this: we need to help them facilitate change first before beginning the actual sales process. We sit and wait while prospects do this anyway – all the while hoping, calling calling calling – and overlook a real opportunity to become part of the Buying Decision Team and sell to those who will buy. Buying anything is the last thing people do; before that they cannot hear you, understand they need you, and don’t even consider themselves buyers. And by focusing on solution placement, we are short-circuiting the buying decision process, entering at the end, and overlook the real opportunity to facilitate the entire Buying Decision Path. To do this, however, requires a skill set different from sales.

I actually developed a pre-sales model that facilitates a buyer’s change management process called Buying Facilitation®. Although a change facilitation model, not a sales model per se, it works with sales and employs a wholly different skill set (Facilitative Questions, Dissociative Listening) that actually shows buyers how to discover and manage the systemic change they will face when purchasing a solution or bringing something new in to their status quo. It not only teaches buyers how to get the requisite buy-in so their daily functioning won’t be compromised – managing the people, policies, technology, and old vendor, etc. issues – but shows them how to pro-actively manage the change that will happen once the new solution is on board. After using Buying Facilitation® THEN it’s time to use the sales behaviors you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not taking away sales; I’m just employing it at the right time, once the buyer is ready, willing, and able to buy. After all, if purchasing your solution would cause more harm than good to the prospect’s environment – regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution – they won’t buy. And the time it takes them to figure all this out is the length of the sales cycle.

If the tech guy doesn’t want to outsource work; if the sales and marketing folks are not talking to each other; if the “C” level person has a favored vendor from 3 years ago; if there is already something in place that cost a bundle and the buyer merely wants to tack on yet another fix – if anything political or relational is going on internally that would compromise the system, the buyer will not buy: they will not buy if the system itself would be at risk.

Let’s teach buyers first how to buy – how to manage their change so they are ready for you to sell and place your solution. Use Buying Facilitation® first to facilitate the Pre-Sales change management issues all buyers must manage, help them get ready to change, and turn them quickly into buyers.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. Sharon Drew is the author of Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell  to introduce the buying decision stages. She is also the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She can be reached at; sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.comwww.didihearyou.com;www.sharondrewmorgen.com

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