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Purchasing a solution is the last thing a buyer does

Submitted by on Friday, 4 December 2009

buying-facilitation-not-consultative-salesSomeone who has read one of my early books told me she thought that Buying Facilitation™ was a type of consultative sales model. It’s far from it. Here is why.

Traditional Sales, spearheaded by Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, published in 1937, is about the product sale. How to position it, how to make its features, functions, and benefits relevant, and how to discuss it so buyers will recognize a need.

Consultative Sales, spearheaded by Linda Richardson in the 80s, added the customer to the mix. What are their needs? What sort of a solution will be relevant? How can we gather the right data so we can ensure that our product/solution can fit with the needs and be positioned in a way to ensure the prospect understands the fit?

But both Tradtional Sales and Consultative Sales (and Permission Marketing, and Values-based Sales, and Relationship Sales, and Trusted Advisor Sales, and Question-based Sales, etc.) are based on placing a solution. By using questions, relationship management, being trustworthy because we care, etc. we work hard at being the chosen vendor. And yet, looking at the numbers, we still close the same number of sales we’ve always closed: plus/minus 7% from first prospecting call to close. And we waste far too much time with customers who won’t buy, and don’t know the difference before we expend all of that time.

Why aren’t we more successful? Because the sales model only manages the solution placement end of the buying decision. And this is the last thing the buyer does as s/he seeks to find a solution.

Think of a time when you wanted to buy something. Say, a new watch. Did you go into a store to buy one as soon as yours broke or became old? Probably not. First, before you went looking or gathering data, you had to decide what sort of watch you wanted. Do you want the same type of watch? Do you want a watch merely to tell time – or be a status symbol? Do you want a watch to hand down to your son or daughter? Do you want to buy several watches to match your work and play outfits? Do you want a watch made in this country, or one imported from Switzerland? Or do you want to merely fix your watch? And do you need to have your spouse buy-in to your decision (if it’s going to be a large purchase)?

This is a very simple siuation. Not a lot of people need to buy-in to your choice, or work together with you to implement it. But until you figure out the above, it doesn’t matter how wonderful a watch’s marketing is, or its features and functions and benefits. Until you make sure that you’ve met your internal criteria for choice, the information about any particular watch is potentially moot.

BUYERS MUST MANAGE THEIR BEHIND-THE-SCENES DECISION ISSUES

Your buyers have personal, professional, company, and team issues to take into account. They have relationship problems and budget challenges. They must get buy-in from above AND below. Until they do all of these things, not only will they not be ready to choose a solution, they won’t even have the full set of their criteria for choice ready.

I recently heard a story that might have taken place  in any company, anywhere around the world. A client of mine in Australia wanted to start up a manufacturing group. He wrote up a very complete proposal and budget for his boss – located in a different country – and sent it off with a request for a decision within three months. He then found a company in Germany that could develop and supply the set-up materials. The sales rep from the German company flew to Australia three times with product prototypes, sales pitches, team intros. These conversations went on for months.

My client had not heard from his boss. Eventually, he flew to visit the boss to discuss the idea with all of the costs and photos of the prototypes in hand. But he and his boss did not get along. And the boss had no interest in a discussion. End of story. Really. End of story.

The cost? Oh, about $50,000 in materials, travel and time. Finally,the German company was just told “No. Sorry. The boss won’t approve.” But it didn’t have to happen.

If the German sales rep had used Buying Facilitation™ on the very first call, my client would have known how to manage his boss and potentially be given the go-ahead BEFORE the manufacturing company sales guy made his first trip to Australia. Or would have known right away that it wasn’t going to fly.

German Seller: What would you have that you haven’t had until now?

Australian Buyer: A new manufacturing division.

GS: What has stopped you from starting up this division unti now?

AS: I have wanted it for some time, but have not approached my boss about it, as he’s not much of a visionary. Besides, we don’t get along so well. He’s out of the country and he pretty much leaves me alone. I suspect we both like it that way and have developed lots of work-arounds to make sure we work together well at arms length. But it makes it difficult to come to agreements.

GS: I hear that until you and your boss figure out a way to decide if a manufacturing group would make sense for your company, it doesn’t make too much sense to have us move forward with a prototype. What would need to happen for you and your boss to be willing to sit down together and figure out what Excellence would look like for the company?

In this way, the seller could actually help the prospect figure out how to possibly heal his relationship with his boss, and possibly move forward. Because until or unless this happens, no sale can take place anyway.

This is the first  job of the buyer: figure out how to recognize, align, and manage all of the internal issues that need to take place so that a problem can be resolved in a way that maintains the congruence of the system. Because until or unless the internal system maintains congruence and integrity, it cannot go forth and choose a solution. And sales – consultative or otherwise – does not manage this.

All sales models manage the solution end of a buying decision. Buying Facilitation™ offers new skills to help buyers figure out how to manage their internal, private, off-line stuff that is keeping them from success, and that sales does not address. Read my new book, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it. It will give you a new skill set to help the buyer do their first job: manage their internal system. And THEN you can do Consultative Sales.

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