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Why sales don’t close

Submitted by on Friday, 9 July 2010

Do you know why you lose sales? Really? Do you assume that everyone with a need is a prospect – until they aren’t? Do you know it’s possible to know exactly who will not ever buy – on your first call?

Using sales alone, it’s not possible to know why you’ve lost a sale, or who will never buy, because the focus on need and solution placement assumes that if there is a ‘need’ you should be able to place your solution. But if that were true, you’d have closed a lot more sales.

We have no way of knowing what causes one prospect with a need to buy, and another prospect with a need to ‘not buy.’ Obviously it has little to do with the need.

What does it have to do with? Since we don’t live in the buyer’s environment, we will never know. Are two department heads fighting? Has the old vendor showed up with a new solution? Does the new business partner offer a partial solution? Is the CEO stepping down and the new one hasn’t been chosen?

BUYERS DON’T BUY WHEN THEY HAVE A NEED

Buyers buy only when they can get appropriate buy-in to bring in something new (read Dirty Little Secrets to understand how and why buyers buy): if they don’t get the appropriate buy-in, and attempt to move forward with a new solution without it, the internal problems they create can be far larger than the ‘need.’ There is some sort of a decision process, a buy-in process, a change management process, that potential buyers must go through behind-the-scenes, before they can choose a solution.

The sales model does not give a seller any capability to take part in this process as 1. it’s private, personal, relationship-/politics-based, and idiosyncratic; 2. it’s a change management issue, not a needs-based issue; 3. the seller is not part of the history of the buyer’s culture and won’t be allowed to take part in that part of the decision making – which is a precursor to prospects being willing and able to make a purchase.

Here are some numbers I’ve put together based on my 20 years of working with sales forces:

  • 20% of prospective buyers (i.e. those with a ‘need) will absolutely never, ever buy. They either already use a similar solution, or they have an internal work-around that’s good enough for them for now.
  • 20% have internal/political/relationship/old vendor issues that won’t go away.
  • 20% (that almost all sales folks lose) are those with internal/political/relationship/old vendor issues they can’t manage but could easily be managed with decision facilitation help.
  • 30% go to competitors, or internal vendors, or do what they have always done (and of course, could potentially choose differently).
  • 10% belong to the seller no matter what, and these are the ones that will close.

THE HARD FACTS

  • Sales doesn’t address the buying decision journey re the corporate politics and people issues (the internal private stuff) and leaves buyers to fumble through on their own. This is where we lose sales, not from needs analysis or pitch or presentation.
  • If a buyer is ready and able, a bad presentation will not make a difference. If the buyer has internal problems with people or politics or partners, a good presentation will not make a difference.
  • Because sales doesn’t have any other tools, it keeps pushing pitch, close, gatekeepers, presentations, etc. etc. and never deals with the real issues that have nothing to do with the need or the solution.
  • Sales close when buyers have handled the internal, private stuff that gets in the way of change. A purchase is, after all, a change management problem.

Stop trying to sell your solution. The right buyers will show up. They need you. Instead, help buyers recognize the behind-the-scenes issues they must address first. I’ve developed a whole model, Buying Facilitation™, that focuses on the buying decision journey before understanding need or placing a solution. This is where prospects go when they say, ‘I’ll call you back.’ They have to do this anyway – with you or without you. Now, they are doing it without you. But if you add Buying Facilitation™ skills to the front end of your sales process, and start the relationship in a different place in the buyer’s journey, you can close somewhere around 40% of your prospects.

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To help you learn Buying Facilitation™, 1. read Dirty Little Secrets; 2. start the Guided Study program; 3. take a program with me in Boston, in September; 4. purchase a few of the learning Modules.