Podcast: How to be Buyer Centric in your Sales Process
Tom Williams and Bruce Scheer of the Sales Conversation blog talk about being buyer-centric
In this episode, Tom Williams, co-founder, and CEO of DealPoint and I talk about taking a buyer-centric approach in influencing the buying process.
Energy Being Wasted
Energy is wasted not just on the seller side of the sales process but also on the buyer side. When you look at the US and global economy, the amount of time that’s wasted on bad deals is just criminal. As for selling organizations, if we can improve how we sell and how we interact with our counterparts in the buying side of the equation, the entire world economy could become more efficient just by doing sales better. Ultimately a good salesperson is a trusted advisor to the customer. And the more we can bring buyers and sellers closer together, the better off everybody is because salespeople tend to be very knowledgeable. They know how to make the buyers life easier or better. If we can help sellers express that relationship a little bit better, then everybody is better off.
What does being Seller-Centric Look Like in the Sales Process?
In a typical sales process, the seller starts with prospecting, qualifies a buyer, and then as fast as they can they move to a demo. Then there’s going to be some negotiation, and then they go for the close. The problem lies in this is all focused on the seller’s needs. And you’ll notice that in all of those steps just described; there was no talking about education or talking about the buyer’s actual problem. Sellers can very quickly get distracted from how they can help their buyer with too much thinking and focus on what do they need to sell. When the focus isn’t on the buyer and their needs, there’s a likelihood of several months going by and ending in a bad or no deal. This is a scenario of a seller showing up and throwing up, and racing to the demo to show how cool the stuff is. The buyer hasn’t had a chance to express what’s in it for them. A lot of times the buyer doesn’t complain. A lot of people talk about deals ending in “no decision.” This is the case where a buyer makes a decision, and and the decision is they don’t want to talk to you. You can’t blame the customer. They’re busy. You didn’t give them enough value or didn’t offer them something that made it worth their time to engage with you. You’ll be forewarned of this eventuality when you are presenting your sides, and the smartphone comes out.
How can a Seller be Buyer-Centric in the Buying Process?
In a good buyer-centric process, there are three components. You want to have a strong understanding of who the buyer is. There’s your champion, but there are also going to be multiple decision makers in a typical enterprise deal. You have to be aware not only of what those parties names are but also what their interests and priorities are. You need to be able to present your solution to their problem in their flavor. You are presenting yourself as if you are an advisor to their organization, and you are being brought in and being paid by the organization to help them fix this problem. The CFO is going to have a different set of concerns than the IT manager, so you need to make sure that you understand what those concerns are. To get a meeting with key decision makers and stakeholders in the buying process, you can suggest to your champion the sorts of questions each one of them is likely to ask, and how it would be smart to get a meeting with them to answer those and any other concerns they might have. You can stress you will be able to speak to their concerns as you have great experience in answering those concerns for other buyers in other companies.
When the Real Selling Begins
Once you get everyone in the buying party aligned and saying “yes,” many sellers think to themselves “mission accomplished.” Sadly, that’s often not the case. There’s now a massive aspect of the buying process that still needs to transpire, and this often is when the real selling begins. The hard part is that the champion may not know exactly how the buying process works inside their organization. This is where it’s critical to have a mutual action plan in place. For example, perhaps your solution has something to do with their production line. And they need their production line working by a critical date. Once that’s established, you can work back in terms of the key buying steps in the buying process that will need to transpire to hit that critical milestone. For example, you can start to schedule a financial review, and deeper technical review, and a legal review as from experience you know clients generally do these things before the contract is signed. You can then work with the champion to figure out the names of people who will be part of those reviews and how to get on their schedule for review and signoff.
Introduce a Mutual Action Plan
Note you are a lot more likely to have the deal go forward because there’s a clear plan of action. The buyer also feels good feeling that they’re in safe hands because you’ve done this before and you’re helping them guide this goal through their organization. Second, you have much higher accuracy of forecast because now you have these milestones that are set out, ideally with due dates. And if they slip, you know that you’re not going to hit your close date so you can tell your manager you are not going to hit as forecast because you are missing these milestones which could be months in advance. You have much better notice. You can now use these milestones as a reason to call and lean on the customer because you can say we committed that to go live at a certain date they said they needed to hit, they are putting themselves at risk by slipping on the internal buying process. Note that you are positioning yourself as on their side and you are trying to help them attain what’s important to them. This gets powerful when you can show them a hard dollar number for the cost of potential delay. A mutual action plan can be as simple as a Google Doc that you share back and forth with that customer so that you have these agreed milestones or have a mutual action plan.
Making Your Champion Look Awesome
You want to make your champion look awesome. One idea is to have a generic presentation that your Champion can turn around and use for their internal selling – in their brand. They can start presenting it, and they look like a smart person. It’s also important to provide them with an executive summary that their boss’s boss’s boss can digest very quickly. It’s very tempting to share a 30 page PowerPoint that has every single part of your value prop in beautiful full-color graphics. But senior decision makers don’t have time or tolerance for that. They want a succinct summary, and then they can dig into detail if they want to.
Think about the Buying Experience
It’s always important to make sure that you are giving a great buying experience. Look at the sales process from your buyer’s eyes. What are they receiving? Is it just a whole bunch of emails? Is it a bunch of Google Docs that you’re sharing? Make sure that you make it easy for them – not only to understand your value proposition, but also for them to share it internally. Just be cognizant of the fact that the prospect is not as good at this as you are, and give them the tools so that they can be successful inside their organization.
Tom certainly knows this stuff and is dedicating his life energy to improving the interconnect between buyers and sellers and high consideration deals.
- Making the buying process more efficient and effective facilitates beneficial change. That’s a wonderful ambition. This happens by making the overall buying process more buyer-friendly and helping your champion buy.
- You need to have a role or persona-based value proposition to each key party in the buying process.
- Once they say “yes” is when the real selling begins. So many deals fall into “no deal” after then yes has been given. Here’s where you need to help the buyer help themselves in removing friction from getting to yes and a signed contract. For complex sales, once the business side is satisfied, and they say yes you have to get through further technical, legal and financial hurdles. Tom’s advice on how to be useful to your champion in these matters is extremely useful.