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“My job is to start a conversation”

Submitted by on Friday, 29 July 2011

Two men discussing somethingI  recently contacted a man who runs a marketing automation company, thinking there might be areas of potential partnership. And while he agreed with my ideas about helping manage the buying decision journey, his baseline business beliefs were well out of the range of mine. In fact, it was fascinating to see how the concept “helping buyers buy” – my trademark for decades – has become a battle cry for the sales industry.

He  believes in developing a trustworthy relationships first, assuming that

  • if you and he start a conversation and reveal your true needs and he can hear you as you want to be heard,
  • if he can maintain a ‘nurture’ relationship during the time it takes you to be ready to buy,
  • if you feel really heard,
  • if you believe he truly cares about you and you trust him,

that you’ll buy from him. “My job is to start a conversation,” he said. “The rest comes later. We can help them manage their buying decision path once they trust us.”

Really? All I have to do is create trust? Does that mean that

  • wherever the buyer is along their buying decision path,
  • whether or not the full Buying Decision Team is created and the full extent of the potential solution has not been defined,
  • whether or not the usual vendor can supply part of the solution,
  • regardless of the  problematic relationships among the folks in the management team with the budget,
  • regardless of the change management issues they’ll have to contend with when something new enters,
  • if there is no buy-in from the internal folks to bring in a new solution,

that I’ll buy from you because I trust you ?

WHEN IS TRUST A FACTOR?

I am not ignoring the trust factor. Obviously a prospect cannot buy from a vendor they don’t trust. But at what point along the buying decision path does trust become a factor? And, what, specifically, is a reason to be trusted?

Think about it. Trust is only a factor once  they have decided it’s time to make a purchase. That means all of the behind-the-scenes decision issues have been resolved and  the type of solution  most relevant to the environment is clear. Then they’ll pick the best of the best. Until or unless all of the change management issues have been resolved, buyers don’t know all the criteria they will use to choose a solution – or whether to seek a solution – at all.

Think about this for a moment. You are having problems with your webmaster. You will need to hire a new team. But your marketing guy has been pushing for his brother’s young, hip, group of new-agey web designers; the sales manager wants a high end, Silicon Valley group to do give you a very tech-savvy look. Your boss, on the other hand, wants to bring in a team from Chile to do the work off site, and offer them ideas so they can trial several possibilities and you can choose.

How do you decide? Do you contact each one of the choices to see whom you trust – and then go with that decision? Or do you all sit down, have internal discussions and arguments, agree on the criteria for the corporate vision, and then choose a vendor that best suits your brand.

YOU CAN FACILITATE CHOICE AS YOUR FIRST CONVERSATION

Instead of focusing on trust as a precursor to a purchase, use your first contact to facilitate the buyer’s change management and discovery issues. When they realize that you have actually spent an hour helping them determine who needs to be on the Buying Decision Team, or how to elicit buy-in from all the folks who will touch a solution, they will trust you.

Don’t stop having conversations. Just use them to first help buyers recognize and manage all of the decision issues they must address, and facilitate their change management and buy-in activities. By that time, you will not only have ‘started’ a conversation, but you will have facilitated their choice. And consider adding Buying Facilitation® skills to your conversation. It will offer you an additional arrow in your quiver to keep you in the ‘change management’ mind set before you are ready to use your sales skills.

Additionally, it’s possible to use technology to not only develop a conversation and trust, but to actually help navigate the decision path. TRIAL PARTNERS WANTED: If you are willing to be a trial for new marketing automation technology I’ve developed that helps buyers facilitate their decision path, I’m seeking new trial partners. Call me. Let’s start a conversation.

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