There are plenty of ways that one can make sales and build relationships with potential buyers, but it comes down to understanding the process a buyer goes through and where the salesperson falls into that process. Here Shweiki Media Printing Company teams up with Karl Scheible from Sandler Training to present a must-watch webinar on understanding the professional buyer’s process.
Traditional Sales Process
Buyers see a lot of salespeople, and salespeople tend to look alike. Often the buyer can’t even tell them apart. If all of one’s competition was front of the buyer at once and asked about their reputation, expertise, testimonials, innovation, quality, they are all going to say they are great. They are all going to say they have the best price and value. What option does this leave the buyer other than to buy based purely on price? Salespeople tend to sound alike and are very “I-centered,” typically talking about themselves, their features and benefits, how good they are, what they can do for the buyer, etc.
Buyers have heard it all before, so they have to default to the “Buyer’s Process” designed to neutralize the traditional salesperson. This process is a defense mechanism evolved over time as various selling systems have evolved as well.
Buyers want to stay one step ahead because they know salespeople are being trained on the latest, greatest techniques. Meanwhile, buyers are doing the same thing. Professional buyers are trained. They make a commission and they know how to buy. The best way to win this game and make the sale is to understand their process…
The Professional Buyer’s Process:
Mislead The Salesperson
Buyers will mislead a salesperson on their interest through exaggeration or downplay. (Example: “I’ve heard wonderful things about your company. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got.”) They want you to talk and fall into the “I-centered” trap.
Buyers know salespeople want to talk about their product and services, and in return, they are getting unpaid consulting. Buyers want sales information because it’s valuable and they can shop pricing and expertise against another vendor. They are looking for free solutions to their problems. One simple “What can your company do for me?” and a salesperson can become a victim of unpaid consulting. This kills most salespeople because they give out their information and expertise and get nothing in return. They set themselves up to a point of disadvantage in future negotiations when it comes to closing a deal because they have no more leverage.
What should a salesperson want in exchange for information? Commitment to a clear next step or a firm “no” so they know they are not wasting time pursuing an opportunity that will never close.
Sophisticated buyers do not commit, but they do make it sound good. (Example: “You really know your stuff, you’ve given us a lot to consider, I need to take it back to my partner (or whomever) and we will give your company top consideration. We’ll evaluate it and touch base in a couple weeks.”) All the salesperson hears is “I like you, it looks good, you’ve done a good job, we don’t see how we couldn’t give your firm top consideration.”
This phenomenon be referred to as “Happy Ears.” Buyers know that when the boss asks how the call went, the answer will be “Great!” The opportunity will then be forecasted as close-able. This is part of their playbook.
Hide (VMOTLIAM = Voice Mail, Out To Lunch, In A Meeting)
The salesperson cannot get ahold of the prospect. As time goes by, the seller sounds more and more desperate. The buyer waits until the end of the quarter or end of the year or when they feel like they can get the seller to cut the price.
There is a difference between selling and negotiating. Selling is getting the buyer to willingly and happily pay for a product or service under the initial terms and conditions offered. Negotiating is a process of going back and forth giving up concessions. Negotiating is a result of not having an effective process to counteract the buyer’s system. Professional buyers know, the longer they wait the more desperate the seller will be.
If one have a buyer that’s hiding, they should do something a traditional salesperson would not do: a”pattern interrupt.” (Example: “I know its been a couple of weeks since we talked and I gave you the proposals. Typically, when I don’t have an answer after a couple of weeks, it just means that you’ve decided to go someplace else, pursue another option, and you’ve been too busy to tell me. And that’s okay–we can’t win them all. I need a big favor, though. Just call me after hours and leave a voicemail and confirm with me that I can close the file, that it’s over. Thanks.”)
That is a message they aren’t use to getting because typically the rep will chase them in desperation. They usually call back right away and say “No, no, no, we’re still okay.” At that point, they are on the phone and one can get engaged with them. It may not be a “yes,” but in most cases, they will reply.
During the selling process, look at the buyer and unemotionally size them up and try and ascertain what step in the buyer’s process they are in. The following are telltale signs of being caught in the buyer’s system. Observe the buyer and their actions and be prepared to counteract their strategies.
- Are they really being open and honest? How to know?
- Are they asking for all kinds of information and not willing to give something of equal value in return?
- Are they full of promise and hope? Maybe it isn’t sincere beyond face value.
- Are they hard to get ahold of? Impossible to lock down for an answer?
When Sales Strategies And Buyer Strategies Collide
Buyer appears interested — Seller will be there for fact-finding, analysis
Buyer acts motivated — Seller can’t wait to get to demo, presentation, proposal
Buyer obtains information — Seller wants commitment, close, contract
Buyer avoids commitment — Seller handles stalls and objections
Buyer disappears — Seller follows up, tracks down, chases