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.
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!