The Steps to Buying: remembering the human element
There are two distinct categories involving buying decisions: the behind-the-scenes issues buyers must manage internally to get stakeholder buy-in for change and for going outside their status quo for a solution and the solution-choice issues.
We are all very familiar with the latter: that’s what sales handles so well. But sales does not handle the former at all:
- we are not there when buyers choose the Buying Decision Team, or the machinations of how they will work together;
- we are not there when the powers that be decide it might actually be time to resolve a problem that has been working well-enough;
- we are not there when internal politics get into gear and people jocky for position in re a new initiative or resolving an historic problem;
- we are not there when the decision is made to either use a familiar provider, or go outside to seek a new one, or do nothing.
To give you some understanding of the order of the steps buyers go through to make the above decisions, think about a time when you decide to purchase a new car, or a new house (or a new something). The very first thing you did was NOT seek out a solution or a vendor. Let’s walk you through the process.
- consider that maybe, just maybe, your current situation isn’t good enough. Just a thought.
- take a look around at the ramifications of the existing situation vs what a different solution would do to your status quo.
- talk with your spouse, kids, friends – your Buying Decision Team. Is the status quo ok for a while longer? What would be important to consider in the decision: money? the time involved in figuring out a new solution? What do you do with the existing solution – keep it? get rid of it? how will you choose – do you need to do some research on the costs of having 2 solutions? And, what will go on with your daily lives when you decide to make a change? Is it a time issue? a money issue? a space issue? What is involved? And what criteria will be used to choose. What about the relationship issues involved? How does each member of the Buying Decision Team get weighted? involved? How do you know when you’ve got the right people in the team? How do you include those you’ve left out?
- Figure out the costs (time, people, money, resource, political/relationship capital) in change. It’s easier to remain with the current situation – but is the status quo too costly? Is the cost too high to make a change? How do you and your decision team go about assessing your internal costs? And whose needs are weighted higher than others? How will you know when one of the Buying Decision Team members is resisting – and how do you all handle that?
- Figure out all of the criteria that will have to be met to keep everyone happy. Everyone. Including your bank.
- Once everyone has agreed to
a. changing the status quo;
b. the type of solution;
c. the criteria that the change/solution must meet;
d. the roles people will play in a purchase choice and adoption activities,
then it’s time to start researching solution choices and providers, get agreement for action from Buying Decision Team.
And this is where sales takes over. Not before.
OUR CURRENT STEPS MISS THE IMPORTANT DECISION FACTORS
Here is what is happening now — and you’ll see why it doesn’t work. Let’s again assume you’re buying a new car, and let’s assume a car sale is similar to other sales calls (a bit of poetic license, please):
- car dealer contacts you to see if you need a new car. Invites you down to showroom to see the car, take you to lunch, sit down and chat with you, etc.
- you have nothing better to do, and the showroom is near your work. You’re thinking of a zippy car for this time in your life. You visit during lunch. You get the whole schpiel – car details, price discussion, a few drinks.
- you are excited – but you’re not sure if this car will be acceptable to your spouse. You sit down with your spouse to discuss your desire to get a new, zippy car.
- spouse is not happy. Spouse wants to buy a vacation cottage with that money; you have an arguement. You decide to put it on the table for a few days and think about it.
- lots of discussion. After three weeks of discussion and no agreement, you and your spouse haven’t gotten further. Your current car is ‘fine’ although with the kids gone you were hoping for something sportier. Your spouse reminds you of the grandkids that now live around the corner. Is there enough money to have two cars?
- seller calls you. What’s up? Great price for the car if you want it. Want to come back in?
See the problem? We wouldn’t buy the way we sell – why do we think our prospects will? Why do we forget the basic facts about people? Why do we treat a problem/need as if it were an isolated event? Why haven’t we adopted new skills to help buyers manage their off-line, private, personal decisions, in the way we would need to for ourselves?
Why do we forget that just as we discuss decisions with family, our buyers discuss decisions with colleagues, and weigh several types of considerations (internal stability, balance of internal political/relationship/timing factors, maintainance of status quo) before they can even consider a new solution?
We forget that if they had found their situation terribly problematic they would have changed already. We forget that choosing our solution – like choosing the car to purchase – is the last thing that goes on in a buyer’s mind. We forget that sales doesn’t offer a different set of skills to help with the different set of decisions.
Think about it. How will you know when it’s time to add Buying Facilitation™ to your current skill set, and help buyers manage their behind-the-scenes decision issues before you sell? How will you know that learning an entirely new skill would sit comfortably with your current skill set and enhance your success?
I’ve developed a new set of learning Accelerators for those folks seeking to put a toe in the water and just learn a few of the skills to add to their sales skills. Have a look.
And, of course, my newest book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it will explain it all – and give you an intricate case study to follow each aspect of the decision making with Facilitative Questions to help influence the decisions. Enjoy.