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The Decisions Before Selling

Submitted by on Thursday, 3 June 2010

I recently ran a contest asking folks to define terms. The definitions that came back, even from folks who read my latest book, were all based on the decisions buyers might make in relation to fixing a problem. In other words, they were still focusing on placing a solution, rather than helping manage the internal decision issues that had to take place prior to any purchase. I’m suggesting that doing a change management process as part of the sales cylce will enormously help buyers close.

Here is a story from a client in Australia.

Jack was the MD of the Sydney office of his firm, with his supervisor living in the States. He was successful, and left to his own devices much of the time, but needed his superior for large out-of-budget decisions.

One day he decided that if the company manufactured a new tool, that there would be a huge savings and would address the lagging market share. He spent a month looking around, and found a tool manufacturer in Germany. The sales rep and engineer flew from Berlin down to Sydney (a loooong bus ride) and started designing this tool. Over the course of a year, they all met 3 times (Are you calculating the costs yet for these trips?). Once he had the tool in hand, my client flew to the States (Are you still calculating travel costs??) to talk to his boss. The conversation didn’t take long.

“A new tool? Looks great. We’ve been trying to figure out how to tackle the market-share problem, and we think we’ve come up with several ideas. We’re going to try these – roll them out and follow them. And if we don’t have the success we think we’ll have, I’ll give you a call and we can talk about this new tool. Give me about 2 years to roll out and trial everything we’re already thinking of.”

But there is another way this might have happened that would have been more successful – and cheaper.

First, from the German manufacturing folks:

BERLIN: You want a new tool? What would you want it to give you that you don’t already have now? And what has stopped you from creating one yourselves? How would you and your Buying Decision Team know that this tool would give you the results you seek?

NOTE: these few Facilitative Questions would have gotten everyone on track, and saved the guys a lotta money traveling down to Sydney — and gotten the MD on the phone to his boss before moving ahead on anything. Like other sales folks, they assumed they had a buyer. They merely had a prospect: the buyer did not know how to line up his ‘team’ around a buying decision. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with the solution, the price, the need, or the relationship.

Next, let’s look at it from the ‘client’s’ viewpoint and see how he could have mitigated the situation before spending an expensive year. Not only would he have known that it wouldn’t be possible, but he actually might have shifted the possibility.

MD: Hi Steven. I have a question: How are you and the Board currently thinking about increasing market share? I have an idea that includes a new piece of equipment and would differentiate us at very little cost. How would you all know that something like that is worth considering? What would you need to see from me? And how would you and the Board want to own the solution so it could ‘come from you’ seemlessly without the other MDs feeling I went over their heads?

There are always political problems between the ranks that are part of the system that keeps the status quo in place. Folks have to figure out how to manage these so that when they decide on solutions, the internal  political issues don’t get knocked out of shape. This exchange would have not only opened the possibility of a new solution, but managed the internal issues – and all before any trips or time or cost. And it could have taken place on the phone or on a video call.

For some reason, we always have our sales radar ON: is there a need? what is the problem that we can resolve? We listen and ask through biases, and only focus on how our solution can be used. We forget that it’s merely one part of what needs to get done. And it’s now possible to help buyers do the stuff they’ve always struggled with: get their entire buying decision team in place so they can figure out if they want to move forward to fix a problem that your solution can resolve. Until they figure out how to do this, they will do nothing. And your solution will never be bought. Would you rather sell? or have someone buy?

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It’s not about your solution, folks. That’s the last thing that happens. The system must first decide to do something different. And you can have a bit of control by using Buying Facilitation™ before sales.

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