My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Exposed buyers

Following a few posts this year from a buyer perspective, my curiosity has been aroused.  As a result, I made an interesting discovery yesterday. Sales books pretty much ignore one of the fundamental things in selling. The buyer.

Just like a scientist making a discovery, the natural reaction is to assume you've made a mistake. Was I on the brink of a major discovery - my epithany (I've always wanted an excuse to use that word) or was this really nothing?

So I skimmed through Advanced Selling Strategies by Brian Tracy, one of the best selling sales books ever.  Just over 400 pages long. I counted about 8 pages which talk about the buyer and motives. SPIN selling by Neil Rackham - 197 pages of which about 6 pages were about buyer needs.

Interestingly both of these books gave the impression of mechanically identifying buyer motives and objections and handling these obstacles as part of  the selling process. What ever happened to it's all about the customer?

Surely buyers are more important than that.  It's impossible to have a sale without one after all.

I'll give Brian Tracy a little credit here. He did at least mention about the fear and anxiety buyers go through -  "am I doing the right thing?".

I've bought lots of things and I am sure you have too. Can we really do justice to what is going on in the head of buyers in just 8 pages in a sales book? The same book that takes about 100 pages to discuss what is going on in the head of the salesman?

This lead me to thinking about the sales process.  The classic sales process is "Lead->Cold Call->Qualify->Sell (read presentation)->Close->Order".  I've never sold anything that way.

The other model suggested by Tracy and Rackham is

Establish Trust->Identify Needs->Present Solutions->Negotiate/Close

I can't say I've ever had any success ringing up prospects and saying "Hey. I want to establish trust with you. How are your kids?".  I usually find if there is no existing relationship it feels like I've intruded and they want me to get to the point pretty damn quickly.  They aren't in the market for a nice friendly chat - they want me to talk about their "need" right at the beginning.

That being said my sales seems closer to this model than the classic sales process but it's still different.  My successful sales are more  likely to be one of these 2 models:

Identify Leads->Research Lead->Identify a need->Contact (cold-call) lead based on need/research->Talk about the common ground-> I ask questions->They ask questions->I offer free advice/help->We establish trust->I explore how I can help them->Sale might emerge

Buyer has a need->They research it->Identify solutions->Contact me->Ask me lots of questions->They feel confident and trust me->We negotiate->sale usually happens

Given my sales process looks rather different to the "classic" sales process, maybe it's time to rethink what's going on in the head of the buyer.

Buyers are very well informed today compared to even 10 years ago. I have had buyers researching me (read qualifying themselves) when I am cold calling. They look up my company, they read product descriptions,they look me up on LinkedIn - whatever. This is all happening real-time whilst I calling them. OK the buyer's motive for this might be to establish trust and credibility but the point I am making is maybe it is time for a rethink.  It could also be a defence reason - "OK I need a reason to get rid of this jerk on the other end - what reason can I find?"

So have I had an epithany or am I making a mountain of a mole hill?

I'd welcome your thoughts on whether it is time to rethink what the real sales process is and give more thought and emphasis that role the buyer plays in a sale.

1 comment:

  1. Comment from Martin Cracknell:

    I believe that successful salespeople adjust their selling style to that of each individual buyer, the very best do this subconsciously, whilst us mere mortals need to develop a strategy for how we identify which adjustments to make.

    If you have a fixed style, especially the 'wham, bham' sort I immediately think of when I read a sales process like the "Lead->Cold Call->Qualify->Sell->Close->Order" I think you are severely limiting your potential client base.

    Many people (me included) hate being sold to in this way. However its undeniable that this is definitely the route to success with some others. Some people are social butterflies and will most readily buy from someone who they feel they know and can relate to on a personal level. For others its all about the cold hard facts and figures (financial benefit, efficiency saving etc.).

    Whilst another group need to metaphorically 'have their hand held', almost be comforted into the sale with supportive techniques that help them justify and feel right about their purchase.

    Very few people fit exactly into one of these pigeon holes and there are plenty of ideas how to approach this (personality colours etc.), but with a bit of practice its possible, I would argue crucial, to adjust how you approach the 'sale' part of the process to the buyer. Without some tweaking towards how your buyer thinks your sales approach will not work time after time.

    Shortly after being taught how and why to adjust my style for different personality types I was in the market to buy some new windows. It was amazing how I was able to identify each salesmens personality types and how many of them failed to adjust their style to mine. Result for these salesmen was no deal, not always just for this reason but I could now see them failing to change. Then one evening a guy game in who started off selling to me in one way but quite clearly (whether deliberately or not) changed his pitch to one that I recognised as being better tailored to what I knew to be my personality type. Sure, he wasn’t the cheapest, he didn’t necessarily have the absolute best product but it was pretty much what I was looking for, at about the right price and sold to me in the right way. A few days later it was he who had my signature on the dotted line.