Why Sales Are Faltering In This Economy, And What To Do About It
IS IT TIME TO TRULY HELP BUYERS BUY?
There are actually two major things a buyer must do prior to making a purchasing decision. Of course they must ultimately choose a supplier and a solution (that’s the role of sales). But they also must manage all of the off-line, behind-the scenes change issues that must take place internally so they can get buy-in to bring aboard something new (i.e. a solution). And this idiosyncratic, off-the-cuff buying decision activity is not addressed by the sales model – and yet it takes up 2/3 of the time it takes a buyer to do all they have to do before they buy.
We cannot be a direct part of this process. We are not there: we are outsiders, the conversations happen between colleagues, and we are not a part of the buyer’s team. Sure, we know (and learn) how to be professionals, and care, and understand. Yet the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers – not the ones we want them to have but answers based on the idiosyncratic needs of the internal system – is the length of the sales cycle.
One of the problems we’re having selling now is not about a buyer’s need, or our solution: it’s the internal, behind-the-scenes issues buyers are having difficulty managing internally. And these issues are now very politically motivated and economy-driven.
Because sales only manages the solution/product placement end of the buying decision, it offers us no tool kit to help buyers manage the conversations that go on off-line, between departments, with old vendors, etc. And because it focuses on the very last thing buyers do – choosing a solution – and not the nitty-gritty issues that cause buyers to buy (or not), we are basically out of control.
DO WE WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?
Sales is at a critical point: it’s stalling, taking far too long to close, and prospects aren’t even entering the conversation in ways they used to. Not to mention that our typical closing rates are far, far too low.
The problem is not with the economy, or with the buyer, or with the seller, or even with the need or the solution. The problem is with the sales model itself: it merely manages information gathering about ‘need’ and solution placement options to sell a solution.
As we continue to ‘push’ on the solution-placement end, it’s getting harder and harder to sell. But imagine if we adopted a new set of skills that actually worked WITH the buyer’s Buying Decision Team to help them manage their own internal decision making. Not based on their need or our solution, but based on the management of their off-line elements. Not using sales techniques, but using decision facilitation techniques. Not about ‘understanding’ but about leadership through change management.
To do that takes an additional skill set. Sales doesn’t do this. We’d have to learn how to facilitate the buyer’s off-line decision issues that often have little to do with a need or our solution.
Are we ready to change? Is it time to do something different? Is it worth the discomfort to add something new to our typical selling habits? And what’s the cost if we don’t.
Sharon Drew Morgan, Founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. and the visionary behind Buying Facilitation (c), author, Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets
Copyright 2010, author retains ownership. All rights reserved.